RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Of bakers and bikers

The Hairy Bikers' chocolate & hazelnut cake (pic from:

When I first heard about the Hairy Bikers, the mental image of portly, leather-clad motorbike riders with excess facial hair was not something I wanted to associate with cooking. Actually, if I’m truthful, the thought slightly turned my stomach.

But I can now cheerfully confess that Tuesday evenings in the Koeksister household have been particularly agreeable since the Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation cookery series began airing on BBC Two. Since being introduced to Dave Myers and Si King, I’ve discovered how surprisingly enjoyable they are to watch.

What makes Bakeation a gem in the plethora of cookery shows out there, I believe, is the successful combination of four elements: interesting multicultural dishes that are accessible to regular cooks like me, beautiful European scenery (with bits of historical background info thrown in), the light-hearted repartee between the two down-to-earth northerners, and the friendly chats they have with some of the best artisan bakers on the continent.

My baking skills are only just passable… in fact, pastry and I have a rather hostile relationship, so I will not be attempting all the recipes Dave and Si have demonstrated!

But being able to experience beautiful and diverse destinations while being introduced to the delectable culinary delights of these nations (and potentially recreating some of them for my own table) is immensely appealing to me. And that probably goes for most of us.

Last week I was ooh-ing and ah-ing over the glorious French sunshine under which the bikers cooked fresh, ripe apricots into a delicious tarte tatin. In another episode I drooled over a Belgian chocolate truffle cheesecake made in the heart of chocolate-laden Bruges. And after the Germany show Mr Koeksister pleaded for homemade ‘bierocks’ – meat and cabbage filling inside a dough casing, brushed with melted butter and served with Bavarian beer. Could it get much better than that?

The last episode of the Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation flights this Tuesday, 1 May 2012, and features their ride through Spain. For recipes from the shows, go to the BBC’s website here.

Do you follow any television cooks or chefs? Do they inspire you in your cooking? Who do you enjoy watching and why?


English as she is spoke


A while ago I overheard a conversation between an Englishman and a Romanian who were of the opinion that it is not difficult to learn English. I couldn’t restrain myself from interrupting to offer a different outlook!

I was reminded of that discussion last week when my sister-in-law sent me a humorous poem entitled Candidate for a Pullet Surprise. This clever piece was composed in 1992 by Jerrold H Zar, a professor at a US university. It illustrates the risk of reliance on computer spell-checking software, with one of its stanzas reading:

Butt now bee cause my spelling

Is checked with such grate flare

Their are know faults with in my cite,

Of nun eye am a wear.

Say, what?

The poem skilfully employs the use of homophones – words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings and spelling (such as pair and pear).

Homophones are different to homographs, which are words that share the same spelling but are different in meaning and sometimes pronunciation. The website offers the following examples of homographs: wind (moving air) or wind (to twist or wrap); wound (the past tense of wind) or wound (an injury). No wonder other nationalities struggle with our language!

Looking into homophones caused me to stumble happily on to comments made by the former associate editor of the Daily Telegraph newspaper and the author of its style book, Simon Heffer.

Spot the mistake

In his Style Notes for the Telegraph, from 2 August 2010, Heffer writes to his sub-editors and journalists:

“Homophones remain abundant and show up the writer and the newspaper or website. We are quality media, and quality media do not make mistakes such as these: ‘the luck of the drawer,’ ‘through the kitchen sink,’ ‘through up,’ ‘dragging their heals’ and ‘slammed on the breaks,’ all of which are clichés that might not be worthy of a piece of elegant writing even if spelt correctly. We have also confused Briton and Britain, hanger and hangar, hordes and hoards, peeled and pealed, lightening and lightning, stationery and stationary, principal and principle, peninsula and peninsular, licence and license and, in something of a pile-up, born, borne and bourn. If you are unsure of the meanings of any of these words, look them up before proceeding further.”

Quoted on Press Gazette, one of Heffer’s e-mails to staff points out that the Telegraph website is “habitually printing homophones of the words we intended to write because of writers’ failure to superintend the spell checker. Here are just a few: who’s for whose; plumb for plum; hyperthermia for hypothermia; diffuse for defuse; there for their; it’s for its; reign for rain; hole for whole; well-healed for well-heeled; and the misuse of each of pallet, palate and palette.”

If you are passionate about good grammar, read Heffer’s amusing e-mail in its entirety.

So, back to the argument about English being easy to learn! Homophones and homographs are just two language complexities that must cause non-English speakers to shake their heads in disbelief, and there are numerous others.

I admire anyone who has learnt to speak and write English well, but most especially if it is not their mother-tongue!

Whatever is praiseworthy…

Hippos at sunset

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Recently I was reminded of how quick we are to focus on the negative aspects of our respective nations. Sometimes it seems to reach the level of a national pastime of collective moaning and fault-finding!

There is so much around us that is excellent, and the opportunities to thank and praise God are limitless. Have you considered what is special about your country, your town, or the area in which you live?

Ultimately, we know that as Christians we are part of a far greater Kingdom, under the authority of a perfect King who transcends all nationalities!

Below are some amazing facts about South Africa. Could you create your own list about Britain, or wherever God has placed you? And how about cataloguing the wonders and benefits of living in God’s Kingdom?


South Africa… a world in one country

  • South Africa’s Kruger National Park game reserve, roughly the size of Wales, supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent.
  • SA is the only country in the world to contain an entire floral kingdom (one of the world’s six.) It has one-tenth (23 200) of the world’s flowering plant species, of which nearly 19 000 are endemic to SA, making it the richest region in the world in terms of species-to-area.
  • Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, and the largest green one. (The Grand Canyon in the US is the biggest and Fish River Canyon in Namibia the second largest – both are dry.)
  • The world’s best land-based whale-watching spot is located in Hermanus (about 70 miles from Cape Town).
  • Seal Island in False Bay (Cape Town) is the only place in the world where great white sharks consistently breach (leap completely out of the water) to catch their prey, mainly seals. In 1991 SA became the first country in the world to protect the great white.
  • SA is home to the world’s only Big Seven reserve. Addo, in the Eastern Cape, not only boasts the traditional Big Five (elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo) but, as it extends into the sea, it also lays claim to the great white shark and southern right whale.
  • SA’s Cango Caves, a 3km long sequence of caverns filled with glittering stalagmites and stalactites, form the longest underground cave sequence in the world.
  • SA has one of the highest commercial bungee jumps in the world, at 216m (710ft), off the Bloukrans Bridge near Knysna.
  • Kimberley’s Big Hole is the largest hand-dug hole in the world and is deeper than Table Mountain is high. From 1871 to 1914 up to 50 000 miners dug the hole to a depth of 240m (790ft) and mined 2 720kg (6 000lb) of diamonds.
  • The deepest mine in the world – 2.5 miles – is TauTona at Western Deep Levels in Carletonville, west of Johannesburg.
  • SA is one of the largest exporters of fruit in the world.
  • SA is the world’s biggest producer of gold, platinum, chromium, vanadium and manganese.