Skip to content

Colleens Legendary Spaghetti Bolognaise

March 3, 2017

Ssssh….don’t tell anyone I told you this but 43 years ago I reeled my brownieboy in with this Spaghetti Bolognaise…..hook, line and sinker….although there was actually no fish involved here, only beef and pork, slow cooked to perfection in a rich unctuous tomato sauce laced with Italian herbs! They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and in this instance it really was true. He must have been starving for a good plate of food because he was popular with the girls at the time! Needless to say this has been, without a doubt, THE most often cooked meal in our home all through the years we have been together. If I don’t make it in a while he starts hankering after it and drops lots of not so subtle hints until I cook it. I always have some of this in the freezer for those times I just don’t have the time to cook. It is a perfect go to on busy late afternoons. Cool weather days are perfect for time in the kitchen and some long slow cooking.




Serves 6 – 8 (freezes well)


3 medium sized Onions, peeled and finely chopped

5 ml Dried Thyme (if you have fresh then use about double the amount)

5 ml Dried Mixed Italian Herbs (or double up for fresh if you have oregano, marjoram & rosemary)

30 ml Olive Oil

30 g Butter

4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely grated

1 Bay Leaf (fresh is preferable but dried will do)

1 Large or two medium sized Carrots, peeled and roughly grated – this adds flavor but is optional

750 g Lean Beef Mince

250 g Pork Mince (optional. Use 1kg beef mince if omitting pork)

10 ml Ground Coriander

1 ml Ground Cloves

5 ml Cinnamon

2,5 ml Freshly ground Black Pepper

100 ml Good Quality Red Wine – only ever use wine you would enjoy drinking to cook with

1 x 475 g can of  Whole Peeled Tomatoes in Juice

140 g Tomato Paste

1 liter hot beef or chicken stock – I prefer to use chicken.

10 ml Sugar

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese to serve.


Brown the onions, thyme and mixed Italian herbs in the olive oil and butter over medium heat until light golden.

Stir in the garlic, whole bay leaf and grated carrots and stir fry for about a minute or two.

Crank the heat up to high, stir in the beef and pork mince and break them up well with a wooden spoon while mixing them in well with the onions, garlic and carrots.

Stir in the coriander, cloves, cinnamon and a good grinding of black pepper at this stage.

Continue stir frying on high heat until all liquid has evaporated and the meat starts to stick on the pan and turns brown.

Pour the wine into the saucepan to deglaze, scrape up all the bits of caramelized meat and onions from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon.

Once the alcohol has burned off add the tin of tomatoes and juice.  Use a sharp knife to cut up the tomatoes a bit so that they can cook down into the meat.

Scrape in all the tomato puree and mix in well.

Add in the sugar if using. This is optional.

Add in the hot stock, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer for about an hour and half to two hours, partially covered with lid.

Stir every now and again so that it doesn’t catch in areas on the bottom of the pan.

Once the meat is very well cooked and soft and the liquid has reduced and thickened to a delicious thick sauce, taste the meat and then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Taste again. This takes 2 to 3 hours from when you add the stock until done. Long slow cooking is what gives this dish its rich flavor.


Serve over al dente pasta (I like to drizzle the pasta once cooked with a delicious green peppery olive oil) and with a generous fine grating of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top.

For those following the LCHF/Banting lifestyle serve on top spiralized blanched zucchini or even raw cucumber as I like to do during the summer months.  

Enjoy with a glass of nice red wine and a green salad.

For those who don’t eat pork use 1kg beef mince. The pork just adds flavor and richness but is optional.

Enjoy! And be careful who you cook it for 😉

browniegirl xx


Spiced Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

February 3, 2017

Today is Carrot Cake Day! Who needs a special day to bake one of these beauties? It also just happens to be Friday and my family’s favourite teatime treat! How remiss of me to have never shared the recipe with all my adoring followers! So here’s to special food days! Time to celebrate carrot cake!


This has been, and remains my go to carrot cake recipe. I have been a bit unfaithful and tried other recipes over the years but the affairs have been trivial and I have always returned to my first love. It is a great recipe for adding spices and flavourings to, as I have done here. I am after all a master pimper when it comes to baking 😉  I posted my original recipe here a lot of years ago!


Adapted from “Cooking With Ina Paarman” by Ina Paarman


685 ml  Flour

10 ml Baking Powder

7,5 ml Bicarbonate of Soda

10 ml Mixed Spice

5 ml Cinnamon

2,5 ml Nutmeg

5 ml Salt

310 ml  Coconut Oil

375 ml Sugar ( I use ½ granulated and ½ soft brown)

4 Extra Large Eggs

5 ml Vanilla Extract

375 ml Carrots,  peeled and grated

2 Granny Smith Apples,  peeled and grated

180 ml  Pineapple, grated or tinned crushed well drained

125 ml Roasted Pecan Nuts,  chopped

1 Orange, finely grated zest only

60 ml Smooth Apricot Jam, heated just to melt


Preheat oven to 190 deg C.

Grease & flour a 28 cm loose bottomed springform pan.

Sift all dry ingredients, excepting for the sugar, together twice.

Beat the oil, sugar, eggs & vanilla together until light and very well blended.

Add the carrots, apples, pineapple, nuts, zest and melted apricot jam and mix well.

Fold the dry ingredients in with a spatula until uniformly blended.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan & bake at 190 deg C for 30 minutes then 180 deg C for 30min. Check with skewer & if still a bit too moist bake another 10 to 15 minutes longer if needed.

Allow cake to firm & cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Icing:

125ml Butter, softened

750 ml Icing Sugar, sifted (may need a bit more or less depending on consistency of frosting)

5ml Vanilla Extract

100 ml Sour Cream

200 g Cream Cheese (drain well on paper towel in a sieve over a bowl for a couple hours)

1/2 Orange, finely grated zest only (optional)



Beat butter until almost white then gradually add the icing sugar a bit at a time until it appears too stiff.

Add the sour cream and beat well.

Add ½ the cream cheese and beat gently then gradually add more cream cheese until a good spreading consistency is obtained. The reason cream cheese frosting turns watery is due to overbeating so take heed.

Fold in the orange zest if using. It is not essential  but makes a wonderful zingy addition to your cake and frosting.

Spread liberally over top and sides of cake and sprinkle with roasted chopped pecans or walnuts.


You can sub the walnuts or pecans with those delightful green shelled and roasted Pistachio nuts to give a new twist of flavour to this cake!

Happy Baking and happy weekend,

browniegirl xx

Winelands Chocolate Festival An Interview with Di Burger

August 12, 2016

Di Burger

Di Burger

Di Burger is a woman with sparkling eyes and a passion for everything chocolate! Such a great passion that she first wrote a book about chocolate and then she set out on a mission to celebrate the masters of the emerging South African Chocolate industry under one roof with a smashingly successful and decadent festival celebrating chocolate in all it’s delicious glory. The first Winelands Chocolate Festival, held at Lourensford Wine Estate in July last year, was such a massive hit and we have been promised that the 2016 Winelands Chocolate Festival  is going to be bigger and better than before. So best get yourself over to Webtickets and get yours….or pop over here and enter to win a set of double tickets! But be sure to get to beautiful Blaauwklippen Wine Estate, just outside Stellenbosch, either Saturday 20th or Sunday 21st August to experience hedonistic pleasure the likes of which you have never known.

I was privileged and honoured to meet Di at the 2015 Winelands Chocolate Festival and I recently interviewed her so that we could get to know more about what drives this energetic woman to do what she doesand about her passion for chocolate.


I recently discovered that you wrote a stunning coffee table book called “Chocolate’s African Odyssey”. When did you first discover your passion about the subject of chocolate and what made you decide to write and self-publish a book on the SA Chocolate Industry?

I have been a chocoholic all my life – no dessert was dessert unless it involved chocolate! I now eat much less but I am more discerning – and with all the good quality chocolate available, I can be!
Almost everyone has had at least one disappointing chocolate experience. But I want to celebrate the fantastic local chocolatiers who make good quality chocolate. There is good stuff to be had if you know where to get it – and what to look for. I shop around and I treat my family to the best chocolate I can get hold of, so no surprises that they are all chocolate lovers too!
I published coffee table books for a number of years and then I decided to do a book on the local MCC industry. What a joy that was – speaking to the people behind the brands and sharing their knowledge and their passion about real artisanal quality bubbly, in the French tradition. There is so much more to making quality Cap Classique than meets the eye. It is a complex process involving a skilful winemaker, first class base wine and top quality multi-cultural yeasts; and so on. Quality chocolate has much in common with Cap Classique in that it is also a specialist product with very complex production processes ; the quality of the end product is also about the provenance, type and the terroir, making it just as complex as wine or coffee – and the history is just as intriguing. It is also a very loved treat (like quality bubbly and quality coffee) and most people know very little about it – it was an irresistible research project!

 What was your inspiration to organise the first SA Winelands Chocolate Festival in 2015? I am guessing that your journey of discovery that you went on for your book research would have helped. Any specific discoveries that inspired and hatched the idea for a festival? 

Yes, the research from my book opened my eyes to the existence of the local chocolate industry which is made up of many small producers who mostly work in isolation. I felt that somehow I should attempt to rouse the attention of chocolate lovers everywhere to support these creative artisanal producers if we want them to continue providing us with intense chocolate experiences. They need to be able to earn a living from their trade if they are to survive – and how can they if so few people know about them? So, my aim was to raise awareness of the industry, through my book – and the festival has become the natural follow-up to that aim. It is time to honour the creativity, innovation and skills of these amazing entrepreneurs.
There is so much talent in the patisserie and baking fields too and more and more they are refusing to use anything but the best quality couverture for their products. So, this time I have included much more patisserie. It is interesting to note that much of the couverture is brought into this country but we already have three local companies who are making chocolate from cocoa beans – Cocoafair, DV and Afrikoa.
Never mind smelling the roses – it’s time to taste the chocolate!
What is your vision for the festival?

Firstly, I want to offer more people the opportunity to experience really good quality chocolate in all its forms, and to learn some things they didn’t know before – and to have a great time at the festival! We have worked hard on the ‘enjoyment and experience’ aspect this year – so there will be lots to do, to see, to eat and drink in a warm and spacious environment…even the children are well catered for this year.
This festival should be about flavour and freshness and seeing what new innovative products are out there. It is also about indulging yourself – taking a break from the hum-drum and hard work of life and just treating yourself because, as the expression goes, you’re worth it! I have brought in associations with other treat products like fashion, jewellery, wine and bubbly, fragrance and the best coffee and we even have sugar-free and low carb options. Because health is still important. Treating yourself doesn’t mean pouring chocolate down your throat!

Secondly and importantly, I would also really like to see our chocolate industry grow and flourish.
It would be wonderful if this festival inspires people to be part of the industry; to experience quality and then to demand freshness and quality at all times; to skill up and get creative and entrepreneurial. I would like chocolatiers to start sharing information and working together, to see bigger businesses helping to support the small and micro-businesses. That is how the wine industry became the formidable force it is today (Collaboration and support!). So that is my vision for chocolate. It is only just getting started!
It is pretty obvious that you are passionate about the subjects of gourmet chocolate and its history, the fashion industry that you trained in, as well as the winelands areas and Methode Cap Classique all of which you have authored books about. What is your aim in organizing the festivals and drawing these 3 gorgeous interests of yours together into one big, deliciously glamorous event?
I was a swimwear designer, formally, for 12 years. In those days the fashion industry was a great industry to be part of and I loved my job. I love the excitement of working on creative projects – projects that have a beginning, a middle and an end; like producing a range of swimwear, or doing the research and producing a new book, or creating and organising a brand new festival.
Why bring fashion (and jewellery), bubbly and chocolate together at the same festival?
There is a whole world of people who get absolute pleasure out of these very things, so this is an opportunity to share the joy with like-minded people! If someone brought me a bottle of Cap Classique, a box of chocolates and a beautiful new item of clothing – I would consider that a reason to celebrate!
What is exciting you most about this years planned festival?

Besides all our fabulous chocolate exhibitors? I love what the three young designers are planning for our fashion and jewellery shows. Being privvy to such creative people in operation is thrilling! Our demos are also another source of eee -excitement! Abigail Donnelly is one of the most creative foodies I have ever met. I don’t even know what she is making – I just know that it will be innovative with clever pairings of flavours (she has just come back from New York and is brim full of ideas). Alice Toich is giving the other demo. She was a real find! She is really gorgeous to look at (move over Nigella) and she bubbles over with creativity from her gorgeous paintings to the creative finishes of her chocolate desserts. Dimo Simatos shows everyone how to make truffles again this year. He is such a nice person and so talented (he and his team are making all the yummy Haute Patisserie for the LINDT Chocolate Teas. And this year we have an in-depth tea tasting some of which will be paired with von Geusau chocolates; an MCC master class and a brandy and chocolate pairing by the SA brandy foundation. Twenty creative cakes have been entered into our Cake competition. I have seen some of them already – amazing! So much to look forward to.

cake1 Last year’s festival was a roaring success that generated far more interest than you and your team imagined I believe, proving that there is a large chocolate following out there eager to learn more about this subject. How are you planning on accommodating the crowds of chocolate and wine lovers who will be flocking through the doors at this year’s event?

My efficient new partner, Darielle Robertson, is a seasoned festival producer. Her organisation skills are legendary and she will ensure that this festival runs smoothly. Between us we have doubled the number of exhibitors and are both intent on creating a quality festival that promotes the quality chocolate industry. This year we have an area specially for children’s activities (FREE entry for 6yrs and under!) and there is plenty for the adults to do, see or take part in throughout the day.
The festival is spread out over most of Blaauwklippen’s estate grounds, which is three times the space we had last year. We are using bedouin tents and all the estate’s buildings to accommodate the seating areas, exhibits, displays and the many activities. There will be an INFO stand in the foyer of the Chocolate Emporium and everything is clearly marked so you know where to go and how to get there! Contingency plans are in place should we need them and we are looking forward to sharing this exciting weekend with you.

Beautiful Blaauwklippen Wine Estate

And finally just an interesting question to end off this interview simply because I cannot imagine a world without chocolate! Reports emerged early in 2016 with alarming headlines like “The World is Running out of Chocolate”. Do you believe this is possible and what do you think the world in general can do about it?

Most cocoa is produced by small-scale farming families using farming practices that haven’t changed in years.
These small-time cocoa growers cannot be expected to supply the increasing demand for cocoa around the world. (Did you know that it takes 10 Theobroma Cacao trees to produce 10kg of chocolate – which is what the average Westerner eats every year!) So, in order to provide sufficient supply for the ever increasing growth in demand, larger companies have planted huge swathes of plantations, possibly destroying tropical forests in order to do this. However, the Fairtrade system was put in place to ensure that farmers are not exploited and that farming is done in an ethical and sustainable way. Most large companies are making a point of getting Fairtrade certification and the smaller reputable companies pride themselves in getting their beans directly from a single origin.
I therefore feel that the issue in in hand – (although that doesn’t stop them from planting the easier-growing cocoa bean varieties which provide cheaper chocolate with less flavour in the final product) So, more reason to get clued up and support only the chocolate that transports you to heaven and back because of the intense flavour and silkiness.

You can help to weed out the bad chocolate producing companies by not supporting them and by only buying from the true artisans who create the ‘food of the gods’ for your pleasure – while you have the choice. The world may well run out of chocolate – but we may also destroy our species long before that.
And in the meantime – life is simply too short to eat cheap chocolate!
I look forward to seeing you all at the Winelands Chocolate Festival.


Don’t forget there is a set of double tickets up for grabs right here on my blog. Winner will be announced on Wednesday 17th August.

Ticket Prices:
Adults: R120 – includes a wine glass, a festival bag and a chocolate, plus 2 magazines
Scholars: R60
6yrs and under – Free
Chocolate Afternoon Tea: R250 – includes entry to the rest of the festival
Adult Demos 50 mins – R50
Tutored Tastings 50 mins – R35
Jumping Castle and jungle Gym Play Area – Free entry for age appropriate children

Disclaimer: All answers provided by Di Burger of Winelands Chocolate Festival. Images used with permission. Personal opinions are my own.

Winelands Chocolate Festival 2016 and a giveaway

August 11, 2016

chocolate chocolate everywhere

The 2nd Winelands Chocolate Festival is getting ready for lift off. A wonderful opportunity for those who woke up too late to attend last year to taste and see that it is very, very good! We are in T-minus countdown days now and I am excited! All over the country chocolatiers and patissieres are zealously and ardously conjuring up magic…edible magic! Soon they will all be gathering together at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate to start setting up their exhibition spots, displaying their divine wares for prying eyes to ogle, sticky hands reaching out to take and eager mouths to try. A brief closing of the eyes as you savour the divine velvety smoothness on your tongue, the flavours overwhelming your taste buds and a sigh as you swallow and it leaves you wanting more. Wallets will be opened and cash will exchange hands to get some of the beautiful stuff into our shopping bags. Yes, bring a shopping bag or backpack, if the sun is shining brightly bring a cooler bag with ice packs for all that precious chocolate you’re going to have sitting in the hot boot of your car (see? I learnt from last year!), bring your wallets, sign up for Snapscan, bring a little pack of wet wipes…wear comfy shoes and clothing (layers are good as it can get quite warm out there in winter), and come hungry….. you’re going to need all of that to enjoy the experience awaiting you.

Chocolate is LOVE- made edible! I love that saying! And it is true. Chocolate, the real deal not the cheap imitation stuff, leaves you with a feeling of euphoria similar to that delightful first flush of being in love! Chocolate is healthy for us in so many ways dear Chocoholics, so aren’t we incredibly blessed here in this magnificent Cape we live in to be able to experience first hand the most amazing chocolate adventure ever? If you missed it last year believe me you do NOT want to miss the amazing  Winelands Chocolate Festival again this year! Last  year was a delicious blast…a sweet memory lingering still even a year later…one of those memories that leave you with a longing for more. And soon I will be getting my more and I cannot wait! At the Winelands Chocolate Festival you can fulfill every chocolate desire….well, almost haha! There will be an abundance of it – in fact 30 different chocolate exhibitors represented….chocolate and more chocolate, MCC bubbles, delicious wines, tea tastings and pairings, brandy tasting and pairing, the most fabulous food from pop up restaurants and food trucks, oh yes, for us BANTERS even some guilt free pleasure too thank goodness, fashion shows, jewellery….and did I mention chocolate? Demos, pairings, playing with it, eating it, drinking it, getting educated about it, you get the picture! Allow me the pleasure of leading you down another magical chocolate path to Blaauwklippen Wine Estate, where the Winelands Chocolate Festival is being held this year, and tell you more about it.

Beautiful Blaauwklippen Wine Estate

This year the festival is offering a bigger and better line-up than the first one, as good as that was. They certainly raised the bar right out of the starting blocks and it was a runaway success, much bigger than anticipated. So this year they have bigger space and a bigger, much better festival planned for everyone.

Let us start with the most important among us….the littlies! Parents need not feel that they cannot attend because they have a young family. Everyone is well catered for! There is a special area with 3 (age appropriate) jumping castles, an obstacle course, a gradual slide, a trampoline and various other play objects. This is in an area with lots of seating for moms and Dads nearby  to watch over them while they play.
There will also be free screenings of the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the MCC Courtyard

There will also be a life-like Cocoa Plantation at the festival. Here, you will be able to follow the road from bean to bar so to speak – find out how real cocoa pods are harvested off the trees and processed into this amazing thing called chocolate that we can’t get enough of.

CHOCOLATE DEMOS – Manor House both Saturday and Sunday (R50 per person per demo. However, Abigail’s ‘chef’s table’ demo is R150)

10am Dimo Simatos the Lindt Chef
12.30 Abigail Donnelly – Taste Food editor – Watch Taste food editor Abi Donnelly create a savoury chocolate ‘Chef’s table’ at 12.30pm
2.00 Alice Toich – ‘The Playful Baker’


TUTORED TASTINGS – IN THE Manor House both Saturday and Sunday (R35)

10am Mingwei Tsai – tea expert Mingwei will offer tastings of his favourite teas – from Earl Grey to Lapsang Souzhsong – paired with von Geusau chocolates!
12.30 Nikki Friedman – MCC Master Class – join Nikki MD of Môreson Wine Estate and find out what makes Cap Classique so special – tasting as you go!
2.00 Danie Pretorius / Dr Winnie Bowman- Sat / Sun – SA Brandy foundation– theme – ‘The craft of SA Brandy’. (Top brandies paired with von Geusau chocolate.


You get to see a chocolate emporium where all seven rooms in the main building will be filled with the heady aromas of chocolate from the chocolatiers and confectioners and will also include an exact replica of a Victorian Kitchen where visitors will be given a glimpse of how Victorians prepared their chocolate. Walk through a life-like Cacao Plantation and enjoy brandy and chocolate tastings in the Spirit Room. There is also a Decorative Cake competition and you can see all the amazing creativity and skill on display)


AN INVITATION TO AN EXLUSIVE LINDT TEA (my absolute favourite event from last year!)


This exclusive event will be held in a beautiful enclosed area on the Manor House verandah overlooking the Praline and Patisserie Garden. The cost is R250 per person (this cost is inclusive of your entry to the show). Guests will receive a complimentary glass of MCC and a generous selection of Lindt’s finest haute patisserie made by the Lindt chefs, chocolate truffles and tea or coffee. This lavish affair takes place at 10am and again at 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Early booking is essential. For the first half hour of the Lindt Chocolate Tea, LINDT chef, Dimo Simatos will entertain you with interesting chocolate ideas before the fashion show starts and you will have prime seats as the models walk past your tables! The fashion shows are about ½ hour long.

BREAKING NEWS: Both morning Lindt Chocolate Tea events are SOLD OUT! Hurry to book for the remaining seats during the afternoon sessions! 


The Stephano Fashion House will host a stunning fashion show at 11:30am and 3:30pm on both days of the festival. Visitors can feast their eyes on high-quality designs produced by creative genius, Stephan Olivier. Stephan is also a lecturer at the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design in Stellenbosch. He describes his style as elegant and ethereal. He is constantly developing and refining his styling, and for the show this year, he has drawn inspiration from mint, rose and white and dark chocolate. The morning show will include Stephan’s smart-wear range and the afternoon collection will showcase his special occasion wear. The pleasure of enjoying beautifully made chocolate product will be echoed in these beautiful garments. This show is free and not to be missed!

The latest range of clothing from the Durbanville-based fashion house, FOUND will also be showcased along with jewelry by Zuyda van Duyk and Jacomien Labuschagne. These items will be on sale after the show.

With ample seating, this area will offer welcome respite to adults while they relish some of the best MCCs, oysters and snacks. Here they will be entertained by the Lindt “Pop up shop” where a chef will create delicious Lindor balls in front of the crowd who gets to taste them as well! This is also where you will find screenings of that famous well-loved movie, Chocolat, as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factorie (for kids and adults.) The movie screenings are free.


Food trucks and pop up restaurant stands selling gourmet eats and savoury choices to fill hungry tummies and an array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be on sale in this area, including wine, MCC, craft beer, gin cocktails, coffee, hot chocolate, milk shakes and juices. This is also where the kiddies play area with a jumping castle jungle gym etc. are (weather permitting) and organised games. It is all about having fun.

THE PATISSERIE GARDEN will be well worth a visist as it will be filled with good stuff. This  area will offer ample seating space and live classical music from 1pm – 5pm Saturday (Mischa) and 1pm – 4pm Sunday (Newton and Maria). There will be patisserie, confectionery and even banting, sugar- free, vegan etc stands with delicious chocolate items of every kind.

The Winelands Chocolate Festival at Blaauklippen is not to be missed. Visitors can not only taste and enjoy good quality chocolate, but also learn more about its history and production. With the many new artisanal chocolatiers on board this year, the festival promises a complete chocolate experience.

Keep an eye on the Winelands Chocolate Festival facebook page  and twitter for updates on more features, special guests and activities.

Blaauwklippen Wine Estate (directions)

WIN                         WIN                             WIN

Enter and win a set of double tickets for yourself and a chocolate loving partner to the Winelands Chocolate Festival. 

All you have to do is to pop over to my facebook page, like the page then like and share the pinned post for this blog entry (publicly and tagging browniegirl blog page so I can see it) . Commenting on facebook is optional.  

For a bonus entry RT this tweet  

Come back here when you are done and let me know in the comments section below that you have entered.

The winner will be drawn randomly and announced on Wednesday 17th August. Only Cape Town residents (or if you will be visiting in the Western Cape at the time) may enter. No transport, accommodation or other costs will be covered by this prize.  

You’ve got to be in it to win it! 



UPDATE: This competition is now closed. The winner of the tickets is Zelmarie Beselaar. Congratulations Zelmarie and thank you to everyone who entered.

Tickets are available online at Webtickets or at the door. Book to avoid disappointment!

Ticket Prices:
Adults: R120 – includes a wine glass, a festival bag and a chocolate, plus 2 magazines
Scholars: R60
6yrs and under – Free
Chocolate Afternoon Tea: R250 – includes entry to the rest of the festival
Adult Demos 50 mins – R50
Tutored Tastings 50 mins – R35
Jumping Castle and jungle Gym Play Area – Free entry for age appropriate children

Disclaimer: All information and photographs provided by Winelands Chocolate Festival and Wired Communications. Personal opinions my own.

Looking Back at The Winelands Chocolate Festival 2015

August 9, 2016

It is that time of year again when the convenors of the Winelands Chocolate Festival are frantically planning and coordinating to bring us something bigger and better than the previous event. They raised the bar so high last year at their very first Winelands Chocolate Festival that I don’t know how it is going to be possible to better it. I was fortunate enough to be given a Media Pass to the 2015 event and I can’t wait to attend this years festival once again. Anyone who knows me knows that where there is chocolate to be found I am usually in very close proximity. Throw in some good MCC and you can be absolutely sure that I will be there! Allow me lead you, through a series of picture collages that I put together,  down the magical chocolate path to the 2015 Winelands Chocolate Festival. This post is long overdue but if you follow the blog on facebook you will know this site was hacked and blacklisted and it took a long time to get it back up and running properly again. There are still a few things to sort out and add but at least I can write and share again.

The Winelands Chocolate Festival is the brainchild of Di Burger (I will be posting my interview with this vibrant, energetic, chocolate loving lady tomorrow) and the first event took place over two fabulous days at Lourensford Wine Estate in July 2015. We arrived all excited clutching our media passes, keen to see what this festival was all about. It had rained a lot over the days prior to the event and the grounds were muddy, like melted chocolate I thought. The weekend itself was lovely with some cloud over the surrounding Helderberg mountains. As we walked towards the entrance there was much activity and excitement in the chilly air and we watched the vehicles starting to pour into the designated parking areas, their tyres making squishing sounds on the waterlogged grass. I don’t think that the organizers ever realized how much interest there would be in their event. I don’t know why…….I mean….CHOCOLATE! It was jam packed with eager chocolate lovers, keen to see what a chocolate festival was all about. We were not disappointed. This lavish affair can best be described in a series of collages that I put together.


There were food trucks outside and pop up restaurants like Bistro 13 inside, serving delicious meals. Those hamburgers were worthy of great praise! The wine and MCC was flowing, there was a chocolate fountain, chocolate shots, plenty to look at and nibble at, fabulous teas to be tasted, nail art, airbrushed tattoos….and of course all that chocolate! And lots of happy smiling faces 😉

Do YOU know why chocolate make us happy?

The amino acid TRYPTOPHAN is found in small quantities in chocolate and is used by the brain to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that can produce feelings of happiness.

PHENYLETHYLALANINE (try saying that fast after you have enjoyed a glass or two of MCC!) is a chemical found in chocolate and it promotes feelings of attraction, excitement and nervousness and is associated with the initial euphoria of falling in love. It acts as an anti-depressant by combining with dopamine that is naturally present in the brain.

THEOBROMINE is a weak stimulant (that is why chocolate isn’t good for dogs as the cute kid in that famous ad says) that works alongside caffeine to produce the characteristic ‘high’ that many people experience after getting their chocolate fix. Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego suggest that chocolate contains substances that produce a cannabis-like effect on the brain. But don’t get too excited – you would have to ingest more than 11,4kg (25 pounds) of chocolate in one sitting to get ‘high’ in the same way. I am pretty certain I put away about 10kgs of the stuff that day 😉

If you need another reason to enjoy your chocolate fix scientists have confirmed that dark chocolate is beneficial for our health. The greater cocoa content provides high concentrations of antioxidants called flavonoids, which reportedly prevent cancers, protect blood vessels, promote cardiac health, and counteract high blood pressure. (info via Science Focusfashion_show_2015

The crowds watched enthralled as models strutted their stuff wearing breathtaking chocolate inspired gowns in a fashion show presented by the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design from Stellenbosch.


There were three magnificent chocolate sculptures by Philip Dillon Barrett 


We saw stunningly creative cakes which were judged in a competition. There were also amazing cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes and tarts to buy by the slice!


The ultimate highlight for me was the exclusive high tea created by Lindt Master Chocolatier Dimo Simatos and his amazing team of chocolate chefs. A welcoming glass of bubbly, a talk on chocolate, meeting the big men in the chocolate world and stunning teas and coffee were included. We definitely went into a happy chocolate high after spending time around this groaning table display. What an amazing array of treats of the highest quality, the chocolate on some so shiny and mirror like that you could glimpse your happy smile in them briefly before sinking your teeth through the chocolate and gold leaf with a satisfying crack!  I have always been a dark chocolate lover  but had never gone beyond 70% cocoa solids. I was transported into a permanent love affair on the next level with very dark, top quality healthy chocolate that day. Long may it continue! Vive la Chocolat!

Disclaimer: I attended The Winelands Chocolate Festival with a media accreditation pass. Opinions expressed are my own.

De Hoop Collection at De Hoop Nature Reserve

September 3, 2015

de_hoop_getaway 032At the beginning of July Don and I had the wonderful privilege of spending a weekend, as guests of De Hoop Collection, at the spectacularly scenic De Hoop Nature Reserve, located along the southern coastline and part of the magnificent Overberg region of the Western Cape. De Hoop Collection at De Hoop Nature Reserve is the first private/public partnership in the hospitality industry in South Africa, established between the De Hoop Collection and Cape Nature. Situated an easy 260km away from Cape Town and a beautiful 3 hour car journey that takes you through mountainous areas, beautiful orchards which at this time of year were pruned and bare waiting in anticipation for the warmer Spring season to arrive, quaint Overberg towns and along teeth shattering gravel roads, this wonderful partnership offers 36,000 hectares of conservation area which forms part of a World Heritage site. The Marine protected area extends 5km/3 nautical miles out to sea and is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa. During the winter months from June to November the bay is transformed into one of the world’s most important nursery areas for Southern Right whales and offers some of the best whale viewing in the world with 40% of the world’s Southern Right Whale population migrating here to mate, calve and nurture their young through the most vulnerable stage of their lives before returning to the northern hemisphere. During these months between 500 and 800 of these magnificent gentle giants of the ocean visit the area and on a good day it is easy to spot 50 to 100 of them from the dunes. Standing alone above the ocean in the area known as Koppie Alleen, with the skies dull and heavy with promised rain, the wind gently tugging at my scarf and the plaintive cries of gulls the only sound other than the crashing of waves onto the white shoreline, was one of my most favourite things to do while there. We braved the elements of rain and cold and my now strong knee (after having had a total knee replacement in February) allowed me to walk across the bridge and climb the sand dunes to stand and drink in the peace and solitude, survey the magnificent beauty of the bay and the pristine beaches and to watch with delight the whales frolicking in the ocean almost directly below us. It wasn’t the best weather being the middle of winter but the rain let up and we were able to see as much as we could of the reserve while there. Next time I will be able to get right down onto the beach to investigate closer all that the area has to offer.

koppie_alleen_outingDe Hoop Nature Reserve also forms part of the world’s smallest and most threatened plant kingdom – the Cape Floral Kingdom – with Fynbos as the dominant form of vegetation. Of special importance is the rare type of lowland Fynbos found in this area. The Bredasdorp/Agulhas and Infanta area, which De Hoop is a part of, has an estimated 1500 plant species of the approximately 9000 species found in the Cape Floristic Region. Of these 1500 species, 108 species are rare or threatened, 34 species occur only in De Hoop Nature Reserve and there are 14 recently discovered species that are still un-described.

floral_kingdomThe reserve has 86 mammal species including the rare bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra, as well as lots of eland, grey rhebuck, baboons, yellow mongoose (saw one of those regularly!), caracal and on rare occasions leopard as well. De Hoop is also famous for its diverse variety of birds, both resident and migratory, both bush and water birds. For the bird lovers to ooh and aah over, there are more than 260 species recorded to date on the reserve. Some of these include the Black Oystercatcher, Damara and Caspian terns, the Cape Griffon Vulture and Stanley’s Bustard. Also found there are the globally threatened Blue Crane. The De Hoop Vlei, a large body of water that covers an area of 17 – 19km when full, is a Ramsar site of international importance for aquatic birds like the flamingo and pelican.

bird_lifeThe reserve is one of South Africa’s last remaining natural areas and is really a true nature lover’s paradise. I so badly want to go back again when the weather is good so that I can really enjoy everything that this amazing space has to offer. October and November would be great for me as it is the best time of year for bird lovers! I doubt whether there are not many reserves that can compare to what De Hoop offers the true nature lover – stunning sea views and pristine beaches, beautiful unspoiled sand dunes, rock pools thriving with marine life, the stunning enormous Vlei with its rich wading birdlife, rare fynbos, an abundance of animals, the Potberg mountains offering home to the rare endangered Cape Vulture and bat caves, yes I heard about those too! Hikers and cyclists in the reserve get up close and personal with animals like the Cape Mountain Zebra, bontebok, eland, baboons, mongooses, ostriches and other animals. It is advisable when leaving your accommodation to close up windows and lock doors so that you don’t have an unpleasant surprise visit from one of aforementioned baboons!

animalszebraZebra photo courtesy of De Hoop Collection

Accommodation at De Hoop is really excellent and will suit all budgets, from the lovely comfy lounge furniture, the copper oil lamps, the welcoming fireplace, the fully set dining table and well equipped kitchen, right down to the electric blankets on the beds, a very welcome surprise during the cold winter months. While Cape Nature is responsible for the conservation management of the reserve, accommodation and restaurant facilities are privately owned and managed by the very friendly, knowledgeable De Hoop Collection staff. There are different types of accommodation inside the Reserve, ranging from the luxury Manor House, self catering fisherman styled cottages each with a small garden and secluded outdoor braai pit, well appointed suites which are fully catered and ideal for romantic interludes, honeymoons and also for families looking for a great time in the midst of nature, delightful thatched round rondavels overlooking the Vlei (my best….next time I am staying in one of those!) as well as camping and caravan sites….so everyone is well catered for! It is the perfect spot for spending time alone celebrating life and love.
accommodationClose to all accommodation and centrally situated is The Opstal area of the reserve which houses reception, where we met the professional and lovely Florence who was on duty while we were there, with a well stocked shop, a wonderful outdoor area with the most magnificent wild fig trees, so big you could get lost in them. I imagined my inner child climbing up a retractable ladder into a secluded treehouse, hidden from prying eyes and reading a great book to read and a set of headphones and good music. What bliss that would be.
receptionOn the other side of the open space is the delightful Fig Tree Restaurant, very aptly named!

figtreeOpen daily for all meals the restaurant was originally situated on the other side of the walled area, but burned down during a fire in October 2014 so was moved into the old stables area and it is just so lovely, the area very suited to a restaurant. Decorated in lively reds, with fynbos and proteas decorating each table, some quirky and antique décor mixed with taxidermied antelope heads on the walls, the area is very well suited to a reserve restaurant. We were treated to the most fabulous dinner our first evening there. Because we had celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary the day before our arrival an ice bucket holding a bottle of delicious Domaine Des Dieux Claudia MCC was waiting for us on arrival. The menu changes daily, or should I say nightly, and on the night we were there we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful starters of a creamy butternut soup and stuffed big brown mushrooms ………then the main course of lamb shank which we both chose and a dessert of white chocolate panna cotta with a berry soup which we shared……….there is also a superb wine menu with a wide range of all the delicious local wines from the area on offer. It is recommended to book for meals. A breakfast buffet is served each morning and looked well attended when we popped in.

restaurant_dinner At the one end of the restaurant is a small pub stocking all the local wines and some spirits from the area. I did enjoy a delightful Inveroche gin and tonic with a twist of orange while sitting and taking in the ambience of a very relaxed easy going space.
barThe burned out shell of the original restaurant is intriguing and very photogenic. Rebuilding and renovating has been held up while sorting out issues with the Monuments and Heritage department as it fell under that category of building but I believe that it will all start soon. A lot of other building and renovations were taking place while we were there and I have since found out that the one space, situated alongside the Shed is now the magnificent Spa @ De Hoop, an exercise in understated luxury, overlooking the beautiful vlei. Natasha Jordaan has been appointed to the position of Spa Therapist and brings with her a wealth of experience having worked on large cruise ships and owning her own salon previously. SPA @ De Hoop has partnered with the brand Africology, a proudly South African brand that follows the healing powers of nature, is inspired by ingredients from Africa and South Africa and offers a variety of revitalising Beauty and Body treatments. Guests may choose from a range of traditional massage techniques that are tailored to their wellness needs. The spa is open daily from 9am to 6pm and gift cards are available for treatments and packages. Enquire at the Spa @ De Hoop reception. To make enquiries or to book a treatment ask at reception, call them on 028 542 1253 or email
To celebrate the opening of Spa @ De Hoop they will run a special throughout October with a 20% discount on all treatments (excluding waxing and tinting). Once again my imagination runs wild and I can just imagine relaxing while enjoying being pampered and having the painful knots in my shoulders eased while watching the peaceful scenic view of that vlei and all the water birds.


Photo courtesy of De Hoop Collection

Owner of De Hoop Collection, William Stephens, a friendly affable gentleman, has some fantastic plans and ideas for the Opstal area, besides the Spa, and it will be very interesting to return at a future date to see all those plans come to full fruition and to enjoy the benefits of them. Alongside the old restaurant is a boules pit (where this lass showed her old man how to play a good game of boules and won convincingly) a jungle gym, tennis court and a swimming pool. We didn’t make use of most of these on offer due to the weather. In amongst all this the fairly tame wildlife roams around nibbling on fresh green grass and plants or lying enjoying the sunlight. We were fascinated by the obviously very old, beautifully hand-built dry stone walls surrounding certain areas of the reserve and accommodation areas.

KOPPIE ALLEENDe Hoop offers quite a few activities that guests can sign up for – including scenic game drives, guided day walks, either through the fynbos for some great bird watching or interpretative Marine walks along the magnificent, almost deserted white beach with its many richly inhabited rockpools to eco-quad biking. Dickson, who welcomed us to our table the evening before, also does the guiding and is well versed and incredibly knowledgeable about the reserve and it’s natural inhabitants. Originally from Zimbabwe, he and his wife Jennifer who served our table, both work on the reserve and are an absolute asset to De Hoop Collection.

activities_dehoopPhotographs courtesy of De Hoop Collection

There is a boat that ferries visitors across the wide expanse of the Vlei and mountain bikes are available to hire. During the summer months I can imagine beautiful hours of lazing on the beach under an umbrella, listening to the ebb and flow of the tide and the crashing of the waves while reading and lazing the hours away, the gentle sea breeze cooling down my overheated skin. Actually I can’t imagine anything nicer right now on this cold night! If I were the snorkeling type those richly inhabited rock pools might lure me away from my shady spot but I am not, so the book and daydreaming wins the day! Hubby and I booked a picnic which we enjoyed at a table overlooking the stunning enormous Vlei, that seems to go on forever, while watching the pelicans flying back and forth and settling very gracefully on the water in large groups. Dusty, the resident lone ostrich, thrown out of the larger group by younger more handsome males, wanders around the Opstal area and after our picnic entertained us rather well, as the sun was setting over the Vlei, with the most beautiful and exotic love dance. Such grace from such a large bird.

picnicDe Hoop Reserve presents endless photographic opportunities to photography enthusiasts. There really is everything for everyone from the beautiful giants of the ocean to the dancing dolphins in the waves, the tiny marine life in the rockpools, rare black oystercatchers and other sea birds, minute plants and fynbos, the stunning white dunes, unspoiled except for the trails left by animals roaming across them and then there are the animals and birds and the wild beautiful landscape.

Whales, Wine and Music Weekend at De Hoop – 4- 6 September 2015

This weekend you can enjoy the now famous and memorable 3 days known as Whales, Wine and Music at De Hoop. Whale spotting, wine tasting and magnificent music is the order of the day (or 3 days to be precise)! Celebrated musicians Malané Hofmeyr-Burger on flute, Peta Ann Holdcroft on cello, Marjan Vonk on viola and Irina Tsonif and Ivo Ivanov on violin will entertain you while you relax and taste the areas delicious wines and view the spectacular displays orchestrated by the Southern Right Whale population currently in the bay at De Hoop. Whale expert on the Whale Coast Cetacean Project, Katja Vinding Petersen will share her fascinating study of whales at Koppie Alleen on Sunday. What better way to spend a relaxing weekend? BUT…..that’s not all! What is a weekend without chocolate after all? There is also a Richard von Geusau Chocolate-making Workshop and to work off all that sweetness you can participate in the guided walks and a picnic on the sand dunes watching the Southern Right Whales at Koppie Alleen.

For more information and to book contact De Hoop at 021-422 4522 or

whalesPhoto courtesy of De Hoop Collection

Despite the tranquillity and peace and the slow life time waits for no man and passes by very quickly at De Hoop. Our Sunday departure time arrived far too soon. The serenity and peace of this place beckons me. I shall have to return again one day soon…..

de_hoop 078One final pic, they say you can’t take the boy out of the man and this photo proves it to be true …..those massive rain puddles in the road caused much excitement and were irresistible to a certain visitor to De Hoop Nature Reserve 🙂

de_hoop_getaway 387

Find De Hoop Collection on Facebook and  Twitter

De Hoop Collection also offers wedding facilities and day visitors are welcome.

Disclaimer: We enjoyed two nights accommodation plus a free dinner at The FigTree Restaurant as guests of De Hoop Collection. This review, photographs (except where indicated) and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

browniegirl xx

Win a Sweet Trip to Switzerland with Freys and Chocolate Festival Ticket Giveaways

July 20, 2015

I only just recently discovered the divinely delicious Frey chocolate because possibly I have been hiding underneath a rock somewhere *blush*……actually I gave up all chocolate, excepting for the 90+% range that I was using for baking, for almost 2 years so the introduction to this amazing range is very new. My absolute favourite Frey bar is the Dark Lemon and Black Pepper and I have one in my desk drawer waiting for later tonight when I will sneak just one block to satisfy my chocoholic tendency! Just that one block of this premium luxury Chocolat Frey bar is enough to transport me to my very happy place.


For all Chocolate Frey lovers like me there is wonderful news! Competition news…..Bucket list news…….I have been very fortunate to have ticked one thing off my bucket list recently and the feeling is awesome 🙂

If you’re a Pick n Pay Smart Shopper and really, who isn’t these days, you could win an amazing family trip to SWITZERLAND, an opportunity of a lifetime worth over R100,000 with Switzerland’s most loved chocolate, Chocolat Frey.

Not only will the lucky family of four win a trip to the city of Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland where they will spend five glorious nights taking in all the magnificent beauty, but they will  also be taken on a tour of the Chocolat Frey factory where they can observe the amazing process of making high quality, authentic Swiss chocolate. For over 125 years, Chocolat Frey products have exclusively been made in Switzerland and sold throughout the world. Frey was founded by two brothers, Robert and Max Frey in 1887,whose passion for the finest chocolate products lives on today and is expressed in every single Chocolat Frey product. Offering unique taste experiences, the range is outstandingly delicious – look out for Frey’s Milk, 78% Dark or Dark Lemon and Black Pepper luxury chocolate.

To enter this amazing competition, simply buy any Chocolat Frey product at selected Pick n Pay stores throughout South Africa and swipe your Smart Shopper Card to stand a chance to win a trip of a lifetime.  But hurry because time is marching on!

Competition for the Swiss trip closes: Sunday 26 July 2015. Terms and conditions apply. Find out more here:


BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…….. 🙂 Chocolat Frey is participating in the upcoming exciting, luscious Winelands Chocolate Festival so………..

Courtesy of The Winelands Chocolate Festival, which is happening at Lourensford Wine Estate this weekend 25-26 July 2015, you, yes you reading this blog post, could win double tickets to the festival on Sunday. And I am also giving the lucky winner  1 set of double tickets to attend a demo by the Freys Chocolatier on Sunday at 10.00. 

EDIT: This ticket giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Anthea our winner of double tickets to the festival on Sunday plus entry to the Frey Demo at 10am! We will be in touch!


If you wish to attend the Winelands Chocolate Festival this weekend buy tickets online at Quicket or at the door. Also read more about it on the website or here 

Ticket Prices:

Adults: R120
Students: R100
Chocolate Afternoon Tea:
 R250 (sold out)
Family Package (Two Adults + Two Children Under 12): R85.00 each
Demo’s: R50


Photographs in this post are not my own and are used courtesy of Chocolat Frey.

Disclaimer: I am attending The Winelands Chocolate Festival with a media accreditation pass. All information supplied by Wired Communications and written by me. Opinions of the product are my own.

A Trip of a Lifetime on the Blue Train

July 17, 2015

20141009_161851Mid 2014 I was wandering down the aisle of our local grocery store and my eye spotted a colourful box of custard. Now….for me to buy custard is a rare event but the interesting wording that caught my eye made me reach out and lift the box of custard off the shelf and place it into my trolley amidst all the healthy LCHF and banting produce that I was purchasing that day! You see, it wan’t just any box of custard. It was a First Choice box of custard and it had blazoned across the front in bright cobalt blue a picture of the luxurious Blue Train and the words Pour Your Heart Out and win a romantic trip for two on the Blue Train! A bucket list item for my hubby and I if ever there was one and one which we knew that we would never be able to tick off the list under normal circumstances. But then….sometimes,in amongst the curveballs that wreak havoc, life gives you a wonderful opportunity! I brought that box of custard home and immediately sent off the sms as per the instructions on the box. After the box had been depleted of the delicious custard inside…served as treats to our grandsons when they visited, I washed and washed it until it was spotless,then dried it for a few days, giving strict instructions that it was not to be thrown into the garbage as I was going to win that trip and I needed the box as proof of purchase. It resided on the counter in the kitchen for almost 3 months while I dreamed about that trip on the magnificent moving 5 star hotel that is the Blue Train, the ultimate in luxurious accommodation and personal service to kings and presidents….and regular folk like us 🙂 Just dreaming about it and reading up about it introduced me to a world of grace, elegance and the romance of a bygone era but very modern and definitely of today’s world when you experience it.  

And then it happened….one Friday morning early October I received a call that confirmed what I had known in my heart all along…..a call asking if I had entered the First Choice Pour Your Heart Out Competition. With my heart thumping out a tune in my chest and throat I answered in the affirmative and was asked to forward my contact details and certified copies of our identity documents to an email address. I spent the weekend in a tailspin, not sure if I had actually won or not. On the  Monday I received another call cnfirming that my hubby and I were one of the very fortunate couples to have won a 27 hour  trip on the Blue Train. We had to choose which journey we would prefer, either southbound from Pretoria to Cape Town with a short stopover in Kimberley which included an historical tour and visit to the Big Hole and open Mine Museum or the northbound trip from Cape Town to Pretoria with a stopover in Matjiesfontein with a similar historical tour. We decided on the southbound journey as I have never been to Kimberley and wanted to see the Big Hole. Included in the prize was an airflight to Johannesburg, transport to Pretoria and a nights accommodation at a luxury hotel!


We chose our date and all the bookings and planning was done faultlessly by Carole, PA to the CEO of Woodlands Dairy and Club Travel Algoa Bay.The level of service and assistance we received was fantastic and Carole went way beyond the call of duty to accommodate us for the journey and date we requested. Early morning Nov 18th found us dropped off at Cape Town International Airport by Care Transport and so our adventure began!  We were flown via SAA to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg where we were picked up by our shuttle and driven to The Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Yip! The Sheraton! The spoiling had begun! We were warmly welcomed and whisked into the hotel foyer and up to reception by the delightful Socrates. Our sign-in was flawless and we were given a delicious mango and granadilla cocktail to sip on and a hot towel to wipe and refresh our travel weary hands. We were handed our access card and escorted into a lift by Socrates, who was handling our baggage, and taken to the executive floor of the hotel and ushered into the Marula suite, a delightful space with lounge, bedroom, gorgeous bathroom with Bvlgari toiletries and a bed big enough to easily accommodate a family of 4! When we drew the curtains the view absolutely captivated us…. the magnificent Union Buildings, perched atop Meintjies Kop and the terraced gardens with huge 9000 seat amphitheater dominated the skyline and filled our view up! The Union Buildings, designed by Herbert Baker and built from light sandstone, overlooks the city. It is built in a mixture of architectural styles – Italian Renaissance, Neoclassical, Cape Dutch and Edwardian architecture and is the official seat of the South African government and also houses the offices of the president of South Africa. After we had settled into our suite we took a walk through the beautiful terraced gardens where thousands of indigenous plants grow and gazed upon the magnificent building and statues. After our walk we met up for a drink with lifelong friends Peter and Mary and then enjoyed a light meal and a delicious bottle of wine in the  tea lounge relaxing and listening to the smooth crooning from a singer in the corner of the lounge. We fell asleep that night, in that massive  bed, watched over by the 9 meter high bronze statue of a benevolent looking, smiling Nelson Mandela, our Madiba with arms outstretched as if to embrace and protect us.

After a good night’s sleep we were woken by a very early morning wake up call. Our shuttle arrived to pick us up promptly from the hotel and we were driven through the early morning commuters to the beautiful old Pretoria Station. We were greeted by Blue Train porters who tagged and whisked our luggage out of sight very efficiently and we were directed around the corner to the Blue Train entrance where the red carpet awaited. We felt like celebrities arriving at an important event 🙂 Once we had our photographs taken at the entrance we were ushered into the building where hubby registered us both and we sat down to wait in the lounge. We were served tea and coffee and rusks and while waiting we were met by the kitchen manager who explained about the two meal sittings and times of meals. Unfortunately there was a large group of foreign tourists on board and they had the first sitting which meant that we would always be the second sitting with dinner happening very late. Then we sat and waited some more….and we waited. Eventually we were told that the train was running late because there was a cable issue. And we waited some more. Finally we were told that the train had arrived at the station and the staff all filed in and were introduced to us. We were ushered out by suite number, met by our personal butler and hurried through and onto the train. We were shown to our suite which, on first impressions, certainly lived up to its reputation of luxury and comfort. During the first little while on board while everyone was settling in lots of staff came and introduced themselves to us, explained how everything worked, took care of all our initial needs and gave us all the literature to fill in etc. Very efficiently run. Our luxury suite was very comfy with lovely couches (which would turn into beds at night) and comfy cushions, a table set with a platter of fresh fruit and a vase of fresh flowers and bottles of water. The bathroom with it’s marble tiles and gold fittings spoke of opulence while the lovely deep bath offered long luxurious soaking, with a shower over the bath, a basin and toilet.  red_carpet_blue_train_lounge
There was a tv with dvds to watch and also a music player with music to listen to. We didn’t get a chance to do either. There was too much else to do and so much to see through the window. Don enjoyed having the tv on to watch where we were going as there is a camera mounted on the front of the locomotive and a map of the route on the tv. It didn’t take long and finally we trundled slowly out of the station on our southbound journey to Cape Town. The first part of the journey we seemed to move along slowly through heavily inhabited areas, mostly squatter camps, gold mines and mine dumps all along the way. Some disused and some in use. We saw Caesars Palace in the distance and then eventually we were in the countryside. The one thing I wished was different was that the windows were not double glazed and sealed and the train climate controlled throughout. So there was no opening of windows and hanging out to take beautiful photos of the passing countryside. And we did travel through some magnificent countryside.

27 hours on the Blue Train is all about the eating and drinking it would seem….gosh every time we turned around it was time to eat again. All food and drinks on the Blue Train is included in the price of the ticket, excepting for French Champagne and Caviar,which is understandable. Dining on the Blue Train is a wonderful experience. The dining car is luxurious and comfortable with each table separated from the next one, booth style, offering some privacy to the diners. It was an absolute delight to savour the exquisite gourmet food, complimented beautifully by some of the best wines on offer in South Africa, while watching the ever changing, gorgeous South African scenery flashing by. The menu offers a selection of entrees, soups, fish, meat dishes, desserts, coffee and cheese platters, all beautifully presented. All the food is prepared on board, using the freshest and best ingredients, by top chefs, the wine is served in cut-crystal glasses and the cutlery is classic silverware while the crockery is bone china. High tea was served in the Observation Lounge and what a sweet spread that was. I enjoyed watching everyone enjoy the sweet treats while I sipped on my cup of tea and enjoyed the scenery. There was never a chance to get to sit in the seats at the back of the Observation Lounge. Once they were occupied by guests it seemed they stayed there for hours, drinking and playing cards or just chatting away. 

eating_drinkingBeing a sunset chaser I was determined to find a good spot and watch the sunset so, as the afternoon shadows lengthened and the sun started sinking towards the horizon, we made our way forward along the lengthy 2km snaking corridor, hanging on every now and again as the train swayed as it turned a corner or rocked across the tracks, and found a window seat in the lounge where we remained until it was dark. We had hardly sat down when we were brought a couple of champagne and cherry cocktails which we sipped on and then after that we toasted the magnificent sunset taking in the stark beauty of the brown grasslands of the Free State. country_scenes

Not long after sunset we crossed the border from the Free State into the Northern Cape, the largest and most sparsely populated province of South Africa. It is just a wee bit smaller than the American state of Montana and a bit larger than Germany. It includes the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Augrabies Falls and its most precious natural resource, the diamond mining regions in Kimberley and Alexander Bay. The Namaqualand region in the west is famous for its Namaqualand daisies which carpet the usually arid area with brilliant colour through the early spring months. It is an area I don’t know at all and would love to have witnessed some of it during the daylight hours and, in fact we should have if the train had not left so late that morning. The train finally arrived at Kimberley station 2 hours later than expected and, as it was already night and too dark, the historical tour visit to the  open mine Museum and theBig Hole was cancelled. What a major disappointment that was as I have always wanted to visit Kimberley, capital of the Northern Cape, and the place where such stunning diamonds come from! The first diamonds were found on Colesberg Kopje on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the De Beers brothers in 1871. The ensuing scramble for claims led to the place being called New Rush, later renamed Kimberley. From mid-July 1871 to 1914 up to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, by hand, yielding 2,720 kilograms (6,000 lb) of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres (1,519 ft) wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 metres (790 ft), but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 metres (705 ft). Since then it has accumulated about 40 metres (130 ft) of water, leaving 175 metres (574 ft) of the hole visible. Mining operations closed down in 1914 but the open pit became an attraction for visitors to the city and by the 1960’s relics of Kimberleys early days including buildings and memorabilia were being organized into a formal museum and tourist attraction. Over the years the Big Hole and Open Mine Museum have undergone various upgrades and between 2002 and 2005 the De Beers invested R50 million in developing the Big Hole into a world class tourism facility. There is currently an effort in progress to register the Big Hole as a World Heritage Site. (Historical info supplied by Wikipedia!) 

 We still had to endure the regular lengthy stopover at Kimberley, despite the late hour, and all had to exit the train as maintenance is done and water is changed etc. We were given a quick historical talk in the small museum inside the station building, enjoyed a glass of sherry and were given our little sherry mugs as mementos. Don and I took a long walk along the entire length of the train, yes it really is about 2km long, and a surprise awaited us. It was the first time we had seen the locomotive pulling all those carriages and instead of it being the bright cobalt blue we were expecting it was an orangey red colour! So we kind of wondered if perhaps there had been an issue with the actual locomotive and not with the cables that had held us up for that lengthy almost 2 hour wait at Pretoria Station. Finally it was time to board the train and we went straight to our suite to begin the big dress up for the elegant dinner. It was a very late dinner seeing as we were  2 hours late with everything and we finally finished dinner past midnight. Our grand plan was to enjoy a leisurely dinner and then take a walk over to the cigar bar and lounge, watch a bit of sport on the big tv screen and enjoy a nightcap. We certainly took the walk to the cigar lounge but it was almost empty, all the crowds had already left for bed so we enjoyed a quick night cap…an amarula on crushed ice, and then headed off to our suite. How lovely it looked when we arrived back. We had left it looking like a lounge but on our return it was a beautiful bedroom with the finest bed linen and fluffy down duvets and pillows. On the pillow some delicious chocolate truffles awaited 🙂 My guilty pleasure!


As with the sunset I was determined to watch a sunrise from the train as well so I set my alarm on my cellphone and fell asleep to the gentle swaying of the train and the swishing of the wheels on the track. I woke up with a start during the early morning hours and the train was stopped somewhere for a very long time before it eventually started up again. I remember it was deathly silent and pitch dark. I lifted the blind over the window and couldn’t see a thing out there. I don’t remember where it was but I woke again before my alarm and before the dawn and saw the sky lightening in the east so got my camera ready to take photos of the sunrise. I woke Donald from his slumbers so that he could experience it with me too. Somewhere between De Aar and Victoria West in the Northern Cape the sun finally made a dramatic appearance with the most amazing cloud formations giving it a stunning look …….now wasn’t that worth it? 20141120_050625We both snuggled back under our down duvets once the spectacle was over and managed to get in another hour or two of sleep before waking in time to get ready for….you guessed it…..breakfast! When I got out of bed I was horrified to find that I was suffering from a severe attack of motion sickness, the train was swaying quite a bit at that stage as the tracks were obviously twisting and turning. I took a trusty anti nausea tablet that I never travel without and we headed for the dining car with me wondering if I would actually make breakfast before dying! But of course I did, and after eating a hearty breakfast I felt 100 percent better and we headed back to the observation car to observe the passing scenery. By now we were passing through the edges of the Karoo and into the Western Cape and the landscape was totally magnificent. The change as you enter the Western Cape is dramatic and soon we were surrounded by mountains,beautiful green vineyards and wheat farms. Such beauty for the eye to behold. PicMonkey CollageWe swayed and rocked through the Winterhoek mountains and Nuwehoek Pass while we sat at the window enjoying our last hours on the train. We passed at speed through Wolseley where our dear friends Kevin and Sybil stood on the side of the tracks and furiously waved us on our way to Cape Town. Wish we could have stopped for a cuppa with them. Soon we were heading into the magnificent Hex River Pass and a kindly Blue Train employee showed us where to stand to get the best view of the train up ahead as it went around a fantastically long corner! It really WAS 2km long and I cannot tell you how many times we walked the length of it during those 27 hours 😉 How I managed I will never know because my right knee had collapsed about 6 weeks before the trip and I was living on painkillers and anti inflammatories. BUT I managed and I loved it so much! 


Once through the Hex River Pass it was full steam ahead to Cape Town and the end of our journey. And before long we observed our beautiful familiar Table Mountain as we slowly trundled through all the stations along the way towards our destination. What a wonderful tale we had to tell our grandsons Ty and Jay who met us, with their dad Damon, at Cape Town station on our arrival. 



PicMonkey Collage

Winners with First Choice Custard. And yes, that box travelled all the way with us. It is still sitting in my cupboard. Maybe one day I will pop it into the recycle bin but it is still a very fresh reminder of what a wonderful experience and trip we had on the Blue Train. We have another small reminder as well, sitting on the dressing table in our bedroom at home…..this beautiful little clock gifted to us on our departure 


First Choice are currently running another amazing competition. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter  buy your box of happy yellow custard and send that sms. You NEVER KNOW what might happen. It could be YOU next time enjoying a bucket list item and crossing it off your list. 


Thank you once again to First Choice Dairy and First Choice Custard. We have poured our hearts out 🙂 We can never thank you enough for the amazing experience of this trip on the Blue Train. Thank you, thank you! 

Colleen (and Donald) xx 

Winelands Chocolate Festival Ticket Giveaway

July 15, 2015

Classic Wine_DV Chocolates_24

WHAT? A Chocolate Festival you say? And in one of my favourite parts of the Western Cape – the Winelands! This is going to be a chocoholic’s dream and I wouldn’t miss it for the world…….in fact I am drooling already and dreaming of the 25th and 26th July as I close my eyes and breathe in all the amazing choccie aromas, relishing the smooth, luscious taste and texture of my favourite dark salty chocolate melting in my mouth. The idea of walking into a large chocolate emporium where the best artisan chocolatiers, chocolate artists, pastry chefs and cake designers are doing what they do best has me almost speechless.  It will be like Alice disappearing into a chocolate rabbit hole and tumbling into an underground world of chocolate. BLISS!

Want to know more? Read on………



The Winelands Chocolate Festival – South Africa’s very first gourmet chocolate festival – will be a decadent culinary celebration of the best in South Africa’s chocolate industry. This amazing festival is being held indoors (hello winter!) at Lourensford Wine Estate in the Helderberg on 25-26 July 2015. SO soon…..I am wishing the days by 🙂 Think gourmet bonbons, chocolate bars, chocolate smothered honey nougat and truffles and this festival will offer your sweet tooth all that it craves and inspire you to think differently about how wonderful chocolate really is;  how versatile it is and how it fits into our lives so well.

Along with show-stopping premium wines, freshly-brewed coffees and tasty bistro food, the festival will allow you to experience chocolate in innovative and exciting ways, all while gaining knowledge about its history and production processes. Yes please!

PicMonkey Collage

Highlights to look out for at the festival on the weekend of 25-26 July will include the Chocolate Theatre, an area dedicated to demos from top chefs and master chocolatiers, a place where you will be able to pick up some great tips and recipes from professionals. Demonstrationswill be given by, among others, Master Chocolatiers Dimo Simatos from Lindt,Alan Clegg from Alexander Avery and Kees Beyers from Beyers Chocolates as well as some renowned pastry chefs, who will all show their eager audiences anything from how to temper chocolate and hand-craft truffles to creating chocolate lace and filling pastries with chocolate.Lindt will be creating the scrumptious afternoon tea to be held at the Aleit & IS Art Gallery in the afternoon on Saturday 25th July. Janine van Zyl (Cold Gold) will show you how to make real dark chocolate ice cream – as well as some interesting and creative serving suggestions; and for all the tea lovers out there, Janine Baum from The Tea Merchant will be demonstrating how tea and chocolate are made for each other. A seat at each live demo costs R50. For the full festival demo schedule click here.

Fancy yourself as a great baker? Take a chance and enter one of the many creative competitions taking place at the festival. Industry leading VIP judges will be hosting an exciting competitive showdown to showcase some of South Africa’s most talented baking artisans.Categories include, amongst others, the best looking Chocolate Cake and the most beautiful multi-tiered Wedding Cake. For more detailed information as well as the entry form, click here.

Got little children? Not a problem for the Chocolate Festival. Why not add to the family fun and let them play dress up? On Sunday 26th July, all under 12’s are free. There will be a Fancy Dress Competition at 12 midday for girls and boys between 2-6 years.The best dressed Cocoa Fairy OR Charlie the Prince of Chocolate (or Chocolate Pirate, Cowboy or Superhero) will each win a scrumptious prize. For more details and entry, click here.


There will be a show stopping chocolate inspired Fashion Show presented by the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design on both days at 11:00. Be ready to be dazzled with amazing, innovative chocolate-inspired fashion.Try something original by getting your nails done, creatively and expertly! If you are a little more daring, Mark Minnies will be on hand to adorn your body with temporary tattoos. Oh I am SO in for this 🙂 You’ll even be able to be framed in chocolate when you have your special Freys photograph taken at the show.

An Art Exhibition will display illustrations on the topic of the ‘The Chocolate Wrapper’ while thrilling Flash Mobs by students will be adding some energized musical ambiance to the event. Talented singers and musicians from Cape Town University’s Music School will be demonstrating random skits throughout the festival. Be ready to be blown away when you least expect it.  

And then, as the afternoon shadows lengthen and you’ve had your fill of chocolate and are overloaded with inspiration and information, the Chocolate Lounge (open all day with free entry) will beckon you to wind down for a little while. From 4pm on both event days you can enjoy bistro foods, tapas, cocktails, and a glass of wine or MCC while relaxing to live music and late afternoon cabaret. Sounds like a bit of heaven to me.

Not only will The Winelands Chocolate Festival be a delicious culinary celebration of the best in South Africa’s chocolate industry, it will give you an opportunity to interact with the people and the talent behind the chocolate. Like a kid in a candy store, get ready to unwrap and savour the pleasantly layered Winelands Chocolate Festival, where good flavour and exquisite chocolate designs await you. Diarise the 25th and 26th July now and go and book your tickets!

Buy tickets online at Quicket or at the door.

Ticket Prices:

Adults: R120
Students: R100
Chocolate Afternoon Tea:
R250 (sold out)
Family Package (Two Adults + Two Children Under 12): R85.00 each
Demo’s: R50

BUT WAIT! There is more……………

I have a set of double tickets to give away to a lucky couple. Just like the browniegirl facebook page, and then tell me in the comment section under the advert of this post, how you feel that moment when you pop a block of smooth dark chocolate, or a delightful chocolate truffle into your mouth. The comment that raises the most blissful image in my mind and makes me drool will win 😉 Get to it.  Please note that no travelling or accommodation expenses are included in the prize!

This competition is now CLOSED! Thank you to everyone for the wonderful entries. Our winner has been notified. Enjoy the Festival 🙂



browniegirl 🙂

All photographs in this post used with permission from The Winelands Chocolate Festival and Wired Communications! 

Disclaimer: I am attending The Winelands Chocolate Festival with a media accreditation pass. All festival information supplied by Wired Communications and written in my own words. Opinions expressed are my own.

Roasted Kohlrabi Cauliflower and Avocado Soup

July 7, 2015


I am a bad, bad browniegirl. A couple of weeks ago I promised that I would post a second recipe that I developed using the wonderful fresh produce in a hamper from ZZ2 so that I could participate in their #mouthwateringbox campaign. Well….life happened…or should I say school holidays and other stuff happened and that went onto the backburner in my mind and would have stayed there had I not been reminded by a comment from a dear friend on one of the banting groups this evening who is having a problem with eating avocados suddenly. She can’t take the texture. So I dropped her a note and made a few suggestions as to how she could maybe stomach them and suddenly I was reminded about the post that I was meant to write. Oh my! I do apologize to all my readers. It is already late at night and last night I was up into the wee hours so I have that little fist beating at the side of my left temple telling me it is way overtime to get some sleep and rest. So without further ado… second recipe that I developed using the ZZ2 fresh products – a delicious soup just in time for this icy cold snap that we are having. The wind is howling around the eaves as I write this and I am warm and cosy with a gas heater warming my study. My dog Tasha has hogged best spot right in front of it 😉 

Serves 4

4 small Kohlrabi bulbs – leaves removed and peeled, cut into cubes
½ head of cauliflower – cut into florets
30ml Olive Oil
2.5ml Freshly Grated Nutmeg
5ml Cumin
5ml Garam Masala
1 Large ZZ2 Onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 Sprigs Thyme – leaves stripped off
1 Bay Leaf
4 Cloves ZZ2 Non Radiated Garlic – peeled and roughly chopped
1 liter chicken stock
The heel of a piece of Parmesan Cheese *see note below*
1 ripened ZZ2 Avocado Pear – cut in half, pit removed, peeled then cut into cubes
125ml Fresh Cream
Maldon Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200deg Celcius
Place the cauliflower and kohlrabi cubes into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the spices.
Drizzle over the olive oil and place on the middle shelf in the hot oven
Roast 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Remove and set aside

To Make the Soup:
In a medium saucepan sauté the onions, bay leaf and thyme in about 2 tsp butter until they are limp and translucent
Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two
Add the roasted vegetables, the parmesan heel and chicken stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally with a spoon, trying to break up the parmesan heel now and again
Turn off heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes then remove and discard the bayleaf and bits of parmesan heel left over and blitz in the saucepan with a hand held stick blender/immersion blender until the veggies are smooth. You can do this in a food processor too if you have one
Add the avocado pear (keeping about 8 cubes aside for garnishing later) and blitz again until smooth
Add the cream and stir through then force the soup through a fine mesh sieve (placed over a large jug) to make it silky smooth
Pour the soup back into the saucepan and return to a medium heat and heat through
Check for seasoning and adjust according to taste with salt and pepper
Divide soup into 4 bowls and garnish as preferred

Grill two streaky bacon rashers until crispy then set aside (finely shredded biltong is also divine)
Cut the avocado cubes into smaller neat dice
Divide the avocado dice between the 4 bowls of soup then crumble the bacon over the top
Parmesan shavings

Finely chop 125ml soft ZZ2 Sundried Tomatoes
Basil Leaves
Parmesan shavings
Garnish each bowl with some of the sundried tomatoes sprinkled on top then add some basil and parmesan shavings
Serve the soup with delicious crusty country bread or seed loaf slathered with butter
Don’t ever get rid of your parmigiano reggiano rinds. These rinds, which a friend told me are known as heels in Italy, add the most wonderful flavor to soups and stews. Pop them into a Ziploc baggie as you get to the end of each one and keep them in the freezer for those times when you need one to add to a soup or stew for extra flavor. Just be sure to remember to remove the heel before blitzing the soup!


And then, for all my South African readers, you still have a couple of days to enter the delicious giveaway from ZZ2.  Pop over and tell them what dish YOU would create with this same box of mouthwatering ingredients (shown in the pic below). You have until Friday 10 July 2015 to head over to the ZZ2Facebook page  and leave your entry as a comment on their page. All entries will go into the grand draw and the lucky winner will be the recipient of their own Mouthwatering Box, plus a nifty avocado tool PLUS a R1000 Checkers Voucher. This competition has nothing to do with browniegirlblog or myself and the lucky winner will be drawn by ZZ2 themselves.


Enjoy, and do enter into the give away. I am heading over that way tomorrow to look for your exciting ideas.

browniegirl xx

Disclaimer: I received the mouthwatering box plus a R300 Checkers Voucher from ZZ2 Farms. The words, opinions, recipe and photographs are my own.