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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Hungarian Goulash

It's now the Saturday after Christmas, and time for me to introduce my readers to another of my personal recipes. This is an extremely tasty dish and is my version of Hungarian Goulash.


750 g Rump steak
1 Large onion – chopped finely
2 Large cloves of garlic – crushed & chopped
1 tin chopped peeled tomatoes
2 green peppers, cut into quarters with seeds removed
½ cup red wine
2– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 generous knob of butter
1 tablespoon thick cream mixed with 2 teaspoons cornflour
1 heaped tablespoon of Paprika
salt to taste


Remove the fat from the steak and discard
Cut the steak into one inch cubes

Heat oil and butter

Add onion and garlic and cook until onion turns clear

Remove from heat. Add paprika and stir in.

Return to a low heat and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes

Add steak pieces and stir/cook until sealed (if necessary add a little more olive oil)
Add tomatoes, green peppers and wine, bring to a simmer, and cook for about an hour.

About 5 minutes before dish is cooked, stir in cream mix to thicken

Add salt to taste

Serve with boiled potatoes, cut into pieces, or baby potatoes, and lightly cooked cabbage

Serves 4



You can use other stewing steak but I have always found that Rump gives the best Goulash.
Caution = I once mistakenly used Cayenne Pepper instead of Paprika, much to my chagrin.
Discarded fat can be rendered down into lard and tidbits for the dog.

This dish always tastes better if cooked the day before and reheated before serving.

© Michael J. Mason 2012

This recipe may be downloaded as required but may not be reproduced without the express permission of the copyright owner, who may be contacted at

Saturday, 22 December 2012

African Drums

Another Saturday - the End of the World has come and gone, although here at the farm in South Africa's Eastern Cape it feels like it's just around the corner. Outside it's 104°F in the shade - that's 40°C, and inside the house (I don't have an air-conditioner)88.5°F or 31°C. On Wednesday I drove into Port Alfred and it was predictably full of Vaalies (for the uninitiated those are holiday makers from what used to be the Transvaal - Gauteng in today's new Apartheid era.). Most of the influx is from Gauteng (one can only tell by the vehicle registrations), although there is a smattering from the Free State, Natal - oops, sorry - KwaZulu-Natal - and the Western Cape. This is the Silly Season, and the time of year to avoid Port Alfred, especially when the temperature peaks to today's levels.

I write this post to the accompaniment of African tribal drums - no kidding! There are a handful of railway cottages occupied by farm workers a short distance away, and a funeral is in progress. Julia, who runs the local shabeen, is burying her young son, who died a week or so ago in a Grahamstown hospital - I am told of HIV, although that could have been pure speculation. I was given the news by Headman, a jack of all trades who does odd jobs for me from time to time. Apparently, when the railway was still running through Martindale, he was the local station master. He now rents the old station master's house from the railways for just R10 a month. Words from his own lips.

Christmas for me will be quiet. I am still awaiting a parcel from Liz - she says it cost her $60 to post so I'm looking forward to a few small goodies this year. She's now been gone for 7 months - thank Goodness for Skype. I have a little gizmo called MagicJack that comes with an USA telephone number and free calls to all other US numbers, but it stopped working on my Laptop so I'll have to try to install it on the old PII machine. At least we get to chat or live video just about every day - except when her work hours are non-conducive.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Meanderings of the Mind

It is Saturday in the Eastern Cape - 11.00 a.m. With no paying work expected until the New Year I am spending the next three weeks carrying out domestic maintenance, maintenance of my personal websites and adding a few extra pages and maybe a few illustrations to my autobiography, The Graceful Retirement of an English Gentleman. It is 90° F outside and the humidity way up at 86%, so I guess it’s rather like being in Louisiana in summertime. We had a rainstorm last evening – 10mm in an hour or so – the new guttering I put up last week appears to be working well – I went out to check it during the storm and water was gushing from its open end at about 2 liters a minute. Still some water getting into the bar though, and you can see from the splashes on the exterior wall where, somehow, the guttering is not quite doing its job.

While sweeping water out of the bar a couple of hours ago I noticed a familiar ‘shape and pattern’ under the drinks table – a 45cm night adder. I don’t revel in killing wild creatures but when a potentially dangerous one invades my home, I have to draw the line because of Katie and the two cats. We’ve never had a night adder in the house before – a couple of boomslangs (bright green tree snakes) in the past, and last year a Cape Cobra outside the scullery door.

My next-door neighbor, Wendell Muir, came to see me yesterday afternoon, bringing with him a dozen farm eggs and some rashers of home cured bacon. He stayed for tea and, as luck would have it, Liz called from WA just before 4 p.m., and so Wendell was able to chat with her face-to-face on Skype for ten minutes while I fed the animals. I always enjoy Wendell’s visits – they give me the opportunity of catching up on the neighborhood news. Apparently they have (at last after 2 years) now graded and fixed the Clumber route to Bathurst. I gave Wendell some of Liz’s marmalade and her special Carolina Marmalade. I guess these are some of the things I shall miss when I part from this country life for the new beginning on the other side of the Pond

A delicious farm breakfast was somewhat spoiled by the CNN news of that terrible elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut – now is the opportunity for Obama to get something done about the gun laws in the States. I have nothing against individuals owning guns – indeed I have a Beretta 7.65 semi automatic (legal) myself – but this 20 year old entered the school with a assault rifle and 2 or 3 hand guns. No one outside the military or the police should be allowed to possess an assault rifle and it should be made a criminal offense to be found with in possession of one. I am stating that in my personal capacity and as a Veteran and retired instructor in air warfare and weapons. There has to be a limit drawn somewhere.

It’s just turned midday, the wind has sprung up and, predictably, the first rumbles of thunder can be heard on the North side of the house. I have no doubt the rain will follow a little later on. A break here for a G & T and to watch a little football. No Not soccer – at a risk of offending some of my readers I don’t think I have watched a single soccer game over the last 20 years – maybe 40!! No, I have been watching “my team” the New England Patriots play against the Houston Texans. The Patriots were 21 – 0 up after 2 minutes of the 2nd Quarter. Tomorrow they’re on Sunday Night Football (I just love Faith Hill !!) I believe playing the 49ers. I took a short break just now to watch the remainder of the 1st Quarter. Great game and Tom Brady is playing a blinder! Go Patriots!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Chicken and Potato Curry

I have decided from time to time to share some of my recipes with my readers. The first one is a Chicken and Potato Curry. Now don't try to amend this by substituting the various spices with a curry mix - I promise you that you will spoil the curry. Also, the fresher the spices are, the better. Using spices that have been stored in the cupboard for a couple of years will detract from the taste of the dish. The ingredients and method should be followed precisely, with the possible exception of the amount of chili powder that you use - I know some people prefer milder or hotter curries. These ingredients will give a middle-of-the-range heat.

Chicken and Potato Curry

8 Chicken breasts (without the bones) each cut into 3 pieces
2 Medium onions – chopped finely
3 Large cloves of garlic – crushed and chopped
Fresh ginger – chopped, about 2 teaspoons
1 heaped teaspoon each of coriander, fennel, gharam masala, cumin
1 level teaspoon each of chili powder, aniseed
8 cardamom seeds
2 tins chopped peeled tomatoes
½ cup white wine
3 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 generous knob of butter
3 medium sized potatoes cut into quarters
1 tablespoon thick cream mixed with 2 teaspoons cornflour
salt to taste
1 further teaspoon gharam masala

Heat oil and butter
Add onion, ginger and garlic and cook until onion turns clear
Remove from heat. Add all spices and stir in.
Return to a low heat and cook spices for 2 – 3 minutes
Add chicken pieces and stir/cook until sealed (if necessary add a little more olive oil)
Add tomatoes and wine, bring to a simmer.
Add potatoes. Simmer for 1 hour or until potatoes cooked.

About 15 minutes before dish is cooked, stir in the further gharam masala
About 5 minutes before dish is cooked stir in cream mix to thicken
Add salt to taste

Serve with rice and sambals (chopped tomatoes, apple, pineapple, onion as required)

For a smaller dish halve the amounts of chicken, tomatoes, potatoes and onion


© Michael J. Mason 2012

This recipe may be downloaded as required but may not be reproduced without the express permission of the copyright owner, who may be contacted at

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Freeing the mind

Workwise I have had an extremely illuminating time recently. I have been writing the content for a number of mini-websites - so far about 60-odd with hopefully more to come. Writing web content can be both interesting and didactic, especially when researching a completely new subject – new in the sense that one previously has known little or nothing about it. As an example, about a year ago I was contracted to rewrite the content for an Orthotics &Prosthetics Practice website. Where, beforehand, there was a void in my knowledge, there is now enough understanding to hold at least a brief conversation on the subject, and at the same time a lot of sympathy for the unfortunates who have to make use of these artifacts.

Recently my writing has been around motivation, and has included such subjects as life coaching, investing, trading, property investment, motivational speaking and the like. Since I was involved in Jaycees (or Junior Chamber) many years ago I have always maintained a keen interest in motivation, although I am ashamed to admit that I have frequently lapsed in the past. This present assignment has re-awakened my mind, and taught me how it is possible to completely change one’s life around for the better by positively controlling the mind. Now I may be getting a little ancient for that right now, and living where I do prevents me from attending any of the local seminars anyway, but I am deeply grateful to CL for giving me the opportunity of doing the work for him.

Our smallholding remains unsold. As I write there are three or four glossy starlings chattering away to each other in the wild plum tree by the gate. The largest of our four cycads has been carrying two huge cones for several months, and only during the last few days have they started to split open, revealing the fleshy red fruit inside. Some species of cycad are indigenous to this part of the Eastern Cape, and one species, Encephalartos latifrons, is close to extinct. Cycads are known to have been around for more than 250 million years, one of the oldest of all plant families.

Last night I managed to have a lengthy telephone conversation with Liz, who is now awaiting her first Christmas with her daughter and grandchildren in Washington State. This will be our first Christmas away from each other in the ten years we have been together. If it were not for Katie I think I would have gone crazy months ago. She is my constant companion and guards the property on my infrequent trips to either Grahamstown or Port Alfred. Since the new shopping mall opened at Rosehill a couple of years back I have been avoiding trips to G’town, and only venture there once a month to pick up my prescription. Shopping at the Rosehill Super Spar is a far more pleasant experience anyway.