Some luxuries just can’t be lived without. Perfume, flowers, a good book and chocolate elephants. – Adair Victoria Cross

stop and smell the roses_edited

I’d include the luxury of lazy Sundays in my friend Adair’s astute quote; I’ve come to love Sundays in my building. The residents are such a diverse mix of cultures and, as they all start their cooking for Sunday lunch, the smells that mingle in the stairwell are a delight to the senses. Today I can smell ras el hanout from the flat of the Ethiopian pastor on my left and thyme in the stuffing of a roasting chicken from the little Jewish lady across the way. My own kitchen is fuggy with the smell of tomatoes simmering with harissa; I’m making a huge pot of sauce to freeze in batches for the week ahead and have made a batch of sausage rolls for the next few days’ lunches.

pies and tomatoes
I’m also preparing to cook a mutton doughboy from a recipe from a book which has made my senses dance a merry jig from the first page, Niel Stemmet’s ‘Salt+Pepper heritage food journey’ (Lapa Uitgewers, R358.00 from Exclusive Books). Niel is a Facebook friend of mine, whom I first discovered via his blog.

salt+pepper cover

salt+pepper doughboy recipe

Niel’s one of those iconic figures who makes everything he touches turn to gold. The seventh-generation descendant of a Dutch glassblower, Niel is a writer, photographer, restaurateur and guest-house owner and décor guru par excellence.
The book was first published in Afrikaans and the translator has been gentle with the author, allowing the unique Afrikaner voice to remain. The recipes are testimony to the history of South African cooking – before the 1970s brought the advent of quick-fix additives. Interspersed with the recipes are delightful anecdotes and reminiscences of the women who formed Niel’s love of cooking, and thought-provoking quotes from South African writers, poets and musicians – even some from the bible.

salt+pepper p123

salt+pepper p127

salt+pepper p140

Niel did all his own photographs and they alone are a good reason for relishing the pages of this book, which celebrates a return to the honest-cuisine of old times, when the only pantry ingredients necessary were salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, coriander, bay leaves – or rather, shared recipes “told in our vernacular and passed on by grandmother to mother, daughter and son”.
And so, with a squirt of bergamot on my wrists added to the fragrance of the flowers on my sideboard, I finish clearing up after my kitchen session and carry a cup of coffee and a slab of those chocolate elephants to my sofa. Perhaps I’ll nap or – perhaps – I’ll devour more of the book until it’s a respectable hour to get under the covers and have an early night.
Just for today I’ve banished loneliness; just for today I’ve created my own bliss …

chocolate elephants_edited



  1. OMG, Cindy, I am suddenly VERY hungry after reading your post, I wonder why?? Haha. I’m as hungry as a horse….or should I say, as a chocolate elephant? 😆

  2. Hey Cin, loved this post. I am trying to get my brain to banish feelings of loneliness too. The Muse is back, but everything I write I end up deleting… was wondering… what did Dort think of the poster you bought for her room?

  3. My late aunt used to preserve tons of yellow cling peaches. I can still picture her sitting in the shade of the peach trees with a plastic basin on her lap and a bucket at her feet, peeling and slicing the peaches, then later cooking and bottling them. Nothing went to waste, the pips with remaining flesh were also cooked and served to the family for dessert whilst most of the bottled peaches were given away to friends and family.
    You seem very “at home” in your new flat OC and your lazy Sunday sounds truly blissful 🙂

  4. Haha! Never forget the luxuries that one can’t live without (even if we have to scrimp madly in other directions 😦 ) I am so thrilled to have found Neil Stemmets blog,thanks to you.Him and my late mother were friends and although I never met him,she always spoke very highly of him.I had the sad job of phoning him in Upington to tell him that she had died.I certainly will be buying his book as it looks delightful.
    I am so happy that you are now able,after the whole upheaval of packing,moving and renovating,to start cooking again.I look forward to all those delicious blogs……. xxx
    P.S I have finally opened a blogging account on WordPress and have absolutely no idea of how to navigate around it 😦
    -Adair Cross

  5. I can almost smell the fragrance of those freesias, Cindy. Neil’s recipe book looks like a real delight. I love the last sentence of that recipe. “Join hands, pray together, remember your parents and their parents, tell stories and have a joyful feast.” So far removed from today’s hastily prepared and eaten meals with family members all hurrying off to be somewhere else. That chocolate looks very moreish. 🙂 Have a great week. xx

  6. We can’t buy those chocolate elephants here but I wish we could. They look very good. I love the sound of the cookbook and it seems he has a lovely writing style where for a cookbook, you get a lot more than just the recipe. Your flowers are very pretty xx

  7. Your flat sounds like the United Nations. I learned to love Ethiopian food when we lived next door to an Ethiopian couple and had some delicious meals at their dining table.

    Neil’s recipe book sounds marvelous. I love the way he introduced the recipe for yellow peaches: i.e.
    “There are only two things that smell more of summer than ginger beer…”

  8. We lived in an apartment block which, too, was a league of nations, and we frequently had progressive dinners – huge fun. Lovely post, Cin. After seeing the edible ellies, I think it might be chocolate for breakfast.

  9. Wonderful book – it does remind me of my mother-in-law, a fabulous cook in the old Afrikaner tradition. I got her recipes but never her results. 8 hours slow cooking on a coal aga made all the difference.


  11. Looks like a wonderful book, thanks Cin. Your dumpling recipe is the same as the one my mom used for vetkoek – sometimes with pieces of left-over roast added – fried in oil. Crispy and delicious!

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