Ciabatta Bread

As some of you already know… I have done a few workshops at La Cucina Delle Zie in Brussels before (a cupcake decorating course & a pizza making course) and I have also attended one of Arianna of Un Altro Colore‘s focaccia making courses through Bookalokal as well.

So when I saw that Arianna & La Cucina Delle Zie had teamed up to provide a “natural baking” series – I was quick to convince HIM that we needed to attend one of them. Sadly – we couldn’t attend all 4 of them due to calendar clashes – but we did manage to find one Sunday that worked for us…. which happened to be the CIABATTA SOURDOUGH workshop.

We were in for a treat… in just over 2 hours – we made our sourdough ciabatta, watched a previously proofed ciabatta get slipped into the oven… and then stood back to nibble our way through 2 different types of freshly baked bread… *sigh*… before walking home with our own bowls of ciabatta dough proofing…

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Ciabatta

220g water
250g white strong flour
50g sourdough
6 g salt
Extra virgin olive oil

  • Mix water & sourdough together until sourdough has dissolved
  • Add wet mixture to flour and using a fork, gently stir until combined
  • Add the salt & using a fork, stir through
  • Add some olive oil around the edge of the bowl and make sure that the dough separates from the bowl with the help of this oil
  • Place a towel over the bowl and leave for half an hour
  • lightly oil your fingers & stretch/fold over the dough, turning the bowl 90 degrees after each fold
  • do this about 4 times

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  • Place the towel over the bowl & leave for half an hour
  • Repeat the stretch/fold action at least another 2 times (3-4times in total)
  • Leave the dough to rise – either in the fridge overnight (to slow down the process) or for an hour in a warm area
  • Well flour a work top – and gently stretch dough over it – you can then cut the dough into as many pieces of ciabatta that you wish (it can be left as is or can be folded over gently) and then placed onto a floured plastic film

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  • Leave for half an hour
  • Place on a baking tray
  • Bake at 250 degrees for 10minutes, then turn down the temperature to 200 degrees for a further 15-20minutes

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Eating at the New Terhills Hotel (Maasmechelen)

HIM & I were recently invited to spend an evening at the recently opened Terhills Hotel in Maasmechelen (right next door to the Outlet Village) as guests of the PR agency & the hotel.

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We arrived mid afternoon on a friday – with a few dark clouds threatening to break what promised to be a beautiful weather weekend – but never fear, a few dark clouds makes for some gorgeous pictures!

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With the presence of the former Eisden coal mine still ever-present in both the structures outside…

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As well in the artwork in the rooms – the essence of history & old-world feel of the neo-classical Baroque exterior in no way competes with the plush luxuriously decorated interior (done by Dôme Deco … even offering the opportunity that guests who fall in love with particular pieces can even enquire at reception about purchasing to take them home!!) – in fact the new & old merge so perfectly together that you couldn’t imagine it any other way.

check the artwork on the mirror above the bed... pretty cool, eh?
check the artwork on the mirror above the bed… pretty cool, eh?

The lights… oh the lights…

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And a reception area that isn’t like any other hotels… demure and unassuming while remaining CHIC in every way…. with staff working off ipads to complete check-in & check-out.

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One thing that really struck me was that this is a perfect getaway for EVERYONE… not just shoppers who love Maasmechelen… but also for Nature lovers with the Hoge Kempen National Park right next door… and active sports folk who can enjoy a day of wakeboarding or water ski-ing at the Cable Parc next door… PLUS the future brings plans of a wellness centre (“hello spa treatments”) and a restaurant/conference area. (Although it must be noted that if you are interested in Spa treatments such as facials, manicure and relaxing or deep-tissue massages – these can already be offered by the hotel either in their mini spa or in your own room!!!)

After the tour (and a good portion of the afternoon doing retail therapy at Maasmechelen Village) – we settled down at the Bar for an evening of drinks & bar food – from Chef Danny Vanderhoven with their DNY, very personal, food & drinks concept.

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Although we sat in the bar lounge area – patrons could make use of the breakfast area for a more traditional table & chair eating experience – if they so wished.

The food concept revolves around street food – with small tapas style sharing dishes being on offer ranging in price from 8 to 12euros per dish. The idea is to order a few & share. We started with an Asian fish/seafood soup (which was probably my least favourite dish of the evening), then some shrimp croquettes & a charcuterie board.

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Once these dishes were cleared – we moved onto the next round – hand cut Belgian Frites, vegetable bitterballen, vegetable tempura & rabbit skewers.

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In terms of food – it was perfect as bar food nibbles – but I am not sure it would be sufficient as a full meal if you were staying for longer than an evening.

We spent the rest of the evening in our Comfort Room – just one of the 60 stylishly decorated & spacious hotel rooms available.

The next morning… we sauntered down to the Breakfast area… (whose lights I have fallen head over heels in love with) and enjoyed a shot of fresh fruit juice smoothies along with cups of freshly brewed coffee.

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The buffet selection is compact but fully comprehensive – offering a selection of different breads (including gluten-free!!); cheeses, meats, salmon, spreads; fresh fruit (whole or already sliced); cakes and of course boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon & sausage.

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I actually couldn’t eat everything that I wanted to… but I can say that it was a great way to start the day … and an even more wonderful way to end this little getaway experience.

Price wise – you are looking at 4star exquisite accommodation from 139€ per room (but they also have a whole host of amazing specials… including their introductory price of 83.50€).

Disclosure: I feel it is very important to disclose that we did not pay for our experience there – but I do promise that this a 100% accurate review of our experience.

Terhills Hotel

Address: Zetellaan 68, 3630 Maasmechelen, BELGIUM

http://www.terhillshotel.com

Homemade Hot Chocolate (SRC)

It is Secret Recipe Club time again – when bloggers from all over, participate in a recipe swap of sorts. Each of us get given another bloggers site in order to re-make and blog about one recipe… we get given a months notice and the idea is to recreate & share. It is also a great opportunity to explore another blog and get some ideas!

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And this month – I got the opportunity to read through The PinterTest Kitchen blog… full of easy and hasslefree recipes.

This blog is run by 3 ladies – Sharon & her 2 daughters, Alison & Jessica – who pin their favourite recipes & then make them!! Some are successful and some are not – but they are always honest & provide some future tips for the ones to “make again”.

I um-ed & ah-ed about what to make – either their microwave potato crisps (because we all know that I am a sucker for savoury nibbles) or their one pot Italian dinner… the joys of limited cleaning up while enjoying tasty food.

And finally decided on their homemade hot chocolate – rich, creamy and oh so sinful – it was a pleasure to make (took only 15minutes) and even more pleasurable to consume!!! A perfect ending to a weekend!

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Hot Chocolate

100g milk chocolate (broken into chunks)
400ml milk
1 vanilla pod (scrapped)
marshmallows (optional)

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  • Place the pieces of broken chocolate & milk into a saucepan along with inside of vanilla pod
  • Bring to a gentle boil – stirring continuously until all the chocolate has melted
  • Pour into 2 mugs
  • top with marshmallows (I love marshmallows – but HIM doesn’t so… we had one with & one without)
  • ENJOY

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If you want to know more about The Secret Recipe club – details can be found here: http://secret-recipe-club.blogspot.com/

Chez Fleur (Vietnamese-Thai Restaurant) – Brussels

Chez Fleur on Chaussee Boondael is probably one of the most well-known Vietnamese (or some say Viet-Thai) restaurants in Brussels – and for good reason!

I got the pleasure of enjoying an evening here earlier in the week to celebrate a friend’s birthday (American Angela – who will be quite chuffed to see her name in print …again :)) along with a few others.

Decor wise – Imagine that the Palace of Versailles boudoir merged with the Louvre Museum while taking hallucinogenic drugs… yupp – fabulous with light red table lights,

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and red walls with chandeliers

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over-the-top (but fabulous) painted artwork…. in big gilt frames

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mirrors, statues and more chandeliers ….

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Did I love it? absolutely…

But the real highlight of the evening was the food. There wasn’t a single fork of food that passed my lips that wasn’t amazing! It was all tasty and had me wishing that I had worn stretchy pants!

As there were 7 of us – we decided to order 6 main plates and share – an excellent idea! And more than sufficient to go around (even for latecomers :)) – we opted for Poulet à la sauce aigre-douce (Sweet & Sour Chicken 9€); Canard de Pékin parfumé à l’Orange (Peking Duck 11,25€); Les Fruits de l’Océan Curry Vert (Green Seafood Curry 11.40€), Porc au Caramel et Poivre (Carmalized Pork with peppers 9€), Riz sautés aux Légumes (Rice with Vegetables 9.20€) and a beef dish (can’t remember… sorry… but it was delicious!)

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A few ordered desserts afterwards – and although somewhat “interestingly” presented – they all murmured happiness while diving into them before I could get out my camera fast enough.

The attention to detail is excellent – even down to the pyramids of sugar cubes served with each coffee.

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Would I return? DEFINITELY! The food was amazingly delicious, reasonably priced – staff were attentive and efficient (I wouldn’t go as far as to say “friendly” but more than sufficient) – and of course the decor is something to be seen! AND even better still – they do deliveries… which is excellent news as I could definitely see myself making use of this in the future!

CHEZ FLEUR

address:  Chaussée de Boondael 326, 1050, Ixelles, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 02 640 0469

website: http://www.chezfleur.be

Opening hours: Monday-Sunday: 12h00-14h30 & 18h00-23h30

Le Chou de Bruxelles

For Mr Drapers birthday – a table of 9 was booked at Le chou de Bruxelles – and lets just say that group bookings must make every restaurant fill with dread… but they handled our larger than normal table excellently!

HIM and I were the first to arrive and settled in at the table in the back (near the door to the terrace that is available in better weather) and enjoy the Belgium promoted look & feel of the place (including national flag paper napkins).

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Most of us opted for their “menu” for 29euros – any starter, any main course & any dessert (with some minor supplements (2€) on certain selections)…

HIM ordered the Parma Ham & Melon as a starter (10€)

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While I was tempted by the Duo of croquette – one shrimp & one cheese (11€) – the shrimp one was a bit “fishy” for me while the cheese one was delicious!!

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For mains – it was an easy decision for HIM – because they had STOEMP on the menu! (17€) – with a leek/potato mash… and although tasty – HIM normally likes his meat cooked until it is almost grey… so seeing a bit of pink in the middle of the sausage kind of put him off a bit. And of course – his absolute favourite place for Stoemp is Fin de Siecle.

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I went for the Filet de Bar Victor l’Ostendaise (Bass topped with grey shrimps & served with 2 baby potatoes) (18€) – which was delicious.

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But their real claim to fame is their Mussels dishes… boosting more than 30 variations… (obviously) served with the traditional frites…. (at least half of the table went for this option). Sas who was sitting next to me opted for the Baccara version (Vegetables-tomato-onions-garlic-basil 21€)

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And for dessert – it was easy for me… DAME BLANCHE (I am such a sucker for ice-cream & chocolate sauce 6€), while HIM remains the “healthy” choice partner in this relationship & ordered the 1/2 fresh pineapple (6€)

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In terms of the Menu deal – we essentially got our dessert for free… but had I not gone for the menu deal, I am not sure if I would have even ordered dessert – as I literally waddled home because I was so full!

The restaurant was warm (very warm), comfortable & the staff were friendly and accommodating. They even brought a birthday hat & played a bit of Stevie Wonder to commemorate the Birthday Boys special day… PLUS they offered a round of after dinner liqueurs on the house. (And for summer – there is a terrace out back!)

Would I go back? Maybe – I have to confess to having a firm favourite resto for Belgian cuisine – Le Bugatti – so I can’t really do a fair comparison. What I can say about Le Chou de Bruxelles is that are reasonably priced, well located & friendly!!

LE CHOU DE BRUXELLES

address: 26, rue de florence, 1050 Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 537 6995

website: http://www.lechoudebruxelles.be

Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 12h00-13h45 (last kitchen order); Monday-Saturday: 18h30-21h45 (last kitchen order)

Malva Pudding (South African)

I recently hosted a South African themed Bookalokal Dinner in Brussels – serving sweetcorn fritters as a starter, bobotie as a main & malva pudding as dessert!

Malva Pudding is a proudly South African dessert of Cape Dutch origin, made from apricot jam & has a sticky cake texture – normally served warm with custard, cream or ice-cream (or all of the above if you are a piggy-piggy like me!)

This is a super easy dessert to whip up & appeals to anyone with a sweet tooth (aka like HIM)… the below recipe provides 8-10 servings… and is a definite “make again”!

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Malva Pudding

1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
Generous pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon apricot jam
1 Tablespoon butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup milk

  • Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt
  • Beat the egg and sugar together & then add melted butter, vinegar & apricot jam
  • Alternately add egg/butter mix and the milk to the dry mixture and beat well
  • Place into a greased dish
  • Cover with a piece of foil & bake at 180c for 45 – 60 minutes until lightly golden in colour.

To make the sauce:

1/2 cup of cream
1/2 cup of milk
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of hot water
125g butter

  • Place all ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat until melted
  • When cake comes out of the oven, use a toothpick to poke holes into the cake and then pour entire sauce over the top (it may look like too much liquid… but the cake will soak it all up)

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Pub lunch at Two Brewers (Covent Garden, London)

Once every few months – HIM and I board the Eurostar (speed train) from Brussels to London for a little weekend getaway. This normally also includes seeing a show, spending copious amounts of time in bookshops, a bit of shopping and of course… the obligatory Pub visit!

This particular February visit was a short one – with us arriving in London on Saturday morning around 10am, dropping our bags off at the hotel, and meandering into Covent Garden area (probably our favourite spot when we are short of time) – we had a few hours to kill before attending the matinée musical performance of Mathilda at Cambridge Theatre and finding a pub was priority #1.

Two Brewers is in throwing distance from the theatre – and oozes pub feeling (probably because it has been there since the 1800’s!!!)

Interior wise – it delivers on all expectations of a pub… dark (but not too dark) interior, a long wooden bar, lots of beer on tap, and seating on mini stools at round tables or in little alcove type booths. The walls are decorated with signed thespians pictures (clearly representing the theatre district that they are in) and staff are relaxed & friendly.

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As per the usual routine – find a table, settle down, review the menu & then place your order at the bar (for food & drinks). The custom is normally to pay at the same time – but we were offered the option of opening up a tab. Drinks are normally poured immediately & within 5minutes – I was back at the table with our 2 rather large glasses of vino! (I do need to point out that alcohol is a bit on the pricey side … and that each “large” glass of wine was the same price as our plate of food!)

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Within about 10minutes – our food was ready & being brought to the table.

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HIM ordered the Bangers & Mash (obviously) – Juicy Boroughbridge pork sausages served on mashed potatoes with lashings of gravy and sticky onion chutney (8.29£). Thankfully, we also ordered a side of seasonal vegetables (2.49£) as the portion of bangers & mash was a little on the small side for my man.

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I went with the Chicken & Bacon Salad – chicken breast & crispy bacon, served with mixed leaves, tomato, cucumber, red onion and a soft-boiled egg, finished with a drizzle of honey & mustard dressing (9.29£). It was “fine” – nothing amazing – but let’s be honest, how great can a salad really be? Plus it was also a little sparse on the chicken & bacon.

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In terms of the actual pub – when we arrived, it was empty, but after an hour – it was filled to the brim with people waiting for tables to become vacant. It was warm & cosy & everything that I love about sitting in a pub in the afternoon. The food was tasty – but nothing special.

Would we return? Probably. It was close enough to Covent Garden & the surrounding theatres to be convenient. And again… I loved the atmosphere!

Two Brewers

Address: 40 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9EP , LONDON (United Kingdom)

Telephone: +44 207 836 7395

website

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 12h00-23h00 & Sunday: 12h00-22h30

Comfort Food : My Chicken Ginger Chow Mein

This is my once a week “go to” recipe for a quick & easy dinner – but is also something that I know is healthy and exceptionally tasty too!

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In our house – we started to call it “chow mein” (pronounced “chao meean”) which is normally the term given to a dish of stirfried noodles that is often found in Chinese restaurants (how authentically Chinese it is … I have my doubts). But the ingredients are pretty similar – flat noodles, soya sauce, vegetables (carrots & green pepper are pretty much essential)…. and of course, in my case, ginger & chicken!

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This normally provides about 4 generous portions & I would recommend using a large wok (or frying pan) as once you start adding the noodles to the stirfry mix – you need the space :)

Chicken Ginger Chow Mein

120g uncooked flat noodles (you can even use linguine)
300g diced chicken breast
peeled ginger (I normally use a piece the size of my thumb, finely chopped)
3 carrots, peeled & diced
1 small green pepper, deseeded & diced
300g button mushrooms, diced
1 garlic clove, peeled & crushed
3 Tablespoons soya sauce
juice of 1 lime
olive oil

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  • Leave the chicken pieces in a splash of the soya sauce with the garlic & ginger to marinate
  • Heat olive oil in a large pan or wok & brown the chicken pieces (us a good squeeze of the lime half way through to help tenderize the chicken)
  • Add the carrots, mushrooms, green pepper, the marinade sauce (including the ginger & garlic) as well as the rest of the soya sauce
  • At the same time – cook the flat noodles in a pot of salted boiling water (5-8minutes)
  • Once the noodles are cooked & drain
  • Add the noodles to the wok with chicken & vegetables and toss in the soya sauce infused liquid
  • Serve & enjoy

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Gluten Free peanut butter Banana muffins (SRC)

It feels like ages since I participated in the Secret Recipe Club reveal – but that is because the last post was on Monday 3rd November (Hidden Christmas Tree Cupcakes), plus there was a break over the festive season & also because I offered to swap out of Group A so that the numbers in each group were more representative & even – and was therefore re-assigned to Group B. Therefore this is my first reveal in Group B… and the first reveal for 2015.

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For those who are not aware – The Secret Recipe Club is an international community of food bloggers – whereby once a month – each group reveals a recreation of a recipe from “someone else” blog. Now “someone else” is a blog that has been assigned to you – normally 3weeks in advance & you get the opportunity to check out their blog and make your selection from anything that they have made in the past!

This month – I got Rebekah’s blog called Rebekah’s Family, Food & Fun – a mom to 5 (yes – you read that right – FIVE) children who also lives with her husband, 2 dogs & 5 chickens in Arkansas…. Now what makes her truly amazing is not only the fact that she also homeschools all of the children (ranging in age from 11 to 3), is active in her church community or runs – but that she also makes the time & effort to churn out some seriously delicious looking recipes – most of which are healthy too!

I managed to narrow down the task to 4 awesome looking (and reading) options:

  1. Deep dish sloppy joe casserole – this had all the makings of a pizza & lasagna mix that had me seriously drooling!
  2. Pineapple pie (this would have been made if I could actually find a tin of crushed pineapple in the local grocery store in Brussels!!!)
  3. Pizza rolls – no further words required….

But I finally settled on her Gluten Free peanut butter banana muffin recipe – not because I was particularly drawn to the gluten-free idea – but because I had loads of banana’s just waiting to be used!

I adapted the recipe by omitting the chocolate chips, adding an extra banana & using a hand held blender instead of a food processor – now I am not sure which of these contributed to the minor “dip” that my muffins took in the centre after removing them from the oven – but looks were not everything – as these muffins tasted AMAZING! Plus they proved to be quick, easy & what I would call guilt-free!

I also made 12 normal sized muffins instead of 40 mini muffins as Rebekah had.

Interesting enough – the day after baking – I found that the peanut butter flavour was less strong…or maybe the banana flavour had intensified – whichever it was – I loved them and would definitely make them again!

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

3 medium bananas, peeled
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter
4 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt

  • Place bananas & eggs into a bowl and use an egg beater to mix together
  • Add the peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla essense & bicarb and mix with beater until combined
  • Place into greased muffin trays
  • Bake for 15-20min at 180C

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http://secret-recipe-club.blogspot.com/

Rooibos Iced Tea

If you utter the name “Rooibos Tea” to any South African – they know exactly what you mean…. But in the rest of the world, this herbal tea is still a growing concept and can sometimes be met with blank looks – which is normally when I start referring to it as “Bush” or ‘Red Bush” tea.

Rooibos (a variety of one of South Africa’s infamous fynbos bushes) is grown predominantly in the mountains of the Western Cape of South Africa and promises to have numerous health benefits ranging from restful sleep, relieving skin disorders or stomach complaints to cancer fighting properties.

It is caffeine free & high in anti-oxidants…and more importantly – SO tasty! So what more are you waiting for?

While in Cape Town over the festive season – I enjoyed a day at Kirstenbosch gardens with HIM, Dad & Bulent… walking along the Boomslang Canopy Tour (as pictured below) & through this gorgeous botanical garden… and finally settling down for a late lunch at their restaurant… where I had the most amazing thirst-quenching Rooibos Iced Tea… and inspiration struck!

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So this is my take on the same drink, which makes 2-3l

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Rooibos Iced Tea

2-3l water
3-4 tea bags of Rooibos
1-2 lemon/lime
2 Tablespoons of honey
mint

  • Add tea bags to boiled water & leave to steep (the longer you leave the teabags in for – the stronger the tea will be)
  • Add honey around the same time – as the heat of the water will melt the honey (of course – adjust the amount of honey depending on whether you like your iced tea sweet or not)
  • Leave to cool – anything between 1-2hr & then refrigerate for a further hour
  • Add sliced of lemon, mint & ice-cubes