Sandy's Kitchen


Blue has frozen Autumn // wrapped her up in an icy grip and jagged stiff her sea and sky. Orange has thawed her colour, defrosted her heart and melted her forbidden stare. And together they dance in perfect tepid unison.

South Africa deep in the throes of winter is bent like an old man – our coat hangers hang disproportionately heavy – awkwardly carrying discarded jackets, scarves, and warmth. And while our winters might not quite have the bite of a European one, our houses are undeniably colder, with no central heating and mediocre insulation, it at times, feels colder than a Siberian snowstorm. So, to stave off the winter blues, we’ve added the energy of orange.

This month, we’ve chosen a palette synonymous with that of Van Gogh’s Vermillion Blues and Chrome Orange –  adding some vibrancy and zest to our winter blues.


“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.” Edith Sitwell

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I’m taking todays wintery table setting from nice to knockout, fusing prints, and packing in pattern upon pattern with our contemporary set-up. Power clashing like a pro, I’ve mixed a simple cocktail of saturated colours, (our striking colour combo of blue and orange) patterns, intricate designs and layered textures to deliberately create a bold, attention-grabbing table.

A loudly printed floral cerise and orange tablecloth serves as the backdrop to this month’s dramatic ‘canvas,’ which is offset by beautifully intricate Spode Blue plates, placed simply and starkly on the cloth. Added to the composition are Dusty Cobalt blue stemmed-wine glasses, which soften the setting, add height and a slightly whimsical feel to the theme. Silverware is the crockery of the day, elegantly, acting as the dinner plate sentry’s – with touches of silver echoed in the napkin rings and various other tableware elements. Height and layering is further emphasised with the odd numbered glass candelabra, bedecked with white candles (white to pick up the flecks of white in the plates and napkins). The addition of winter’s perfect seasonal fruit – oranges piled high on a large blue platter, offer further texture and colour with the inclusion. For my personal touch of something unique, I’ve included my Hilton Nel cat. Originally my mum’s, it holds a very special place in my heart and on this table – with its speckled blue and white glazed scowl, my cat adds a wonderful personality to the table.   

Tip to remember when styling – while I love symmetry, odd number grouping, or the rule of three as I like to call it, is an extremely effective way to create visual interest and maintain engagement. Odd numbers are just, well, simply more appealing and memorable to the eye.

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Our floral pick of the month draws directly from our blue and orange colour palette. Bursts of colour are an easy way to brighten up your cold-weather mood, and with the power clash combo of flowers and fruit, it makes for a pretty badass bouquet.

I’ve incorporated our seasonal South African citrus and blue hued Hydrangeas together in this simple, yet dramatic arrangement. Your starting point is choosing a range of blue shades, from Powder, Periwinkle and Pico-tee Blue to heavier hues of Lilacs and Liberty Blue. Combine the blue tones together in a casual arrangement and from here, work in your oranges – ensure that they still have their stems on in order to create structure, alternatively use a kebab skewer as a make-shift stem. Simply intersperse amongst the Hydrangeas for a fabulous floral display, and a little burst of sunshine.

Tip for getting the most out of your cut Hydrangeas – if you are cutting them from your garden, a well cut and kept Hydrangea will have a vase lifespan of 6 to 10 days, so for best results, remember to cut only the flowers that are fully opened. With a pair of sharp clean pruning shears, cut the stem at a 45-degree angle – strip away any excess foliage on the stems to ensure that the flowers get the maximum amount of water and enjoy.


Thai-style Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Pesto

  • 2 bunches coriander, roots trimmed (a few leaves reserved for garnish)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped finely 
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1kg butternut peeled, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock
  • 400ml canned light coconut milk
  • To make the coriander pesto, blend the coriander, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, adding a little warm water if needed, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pot over a medium heat.
  • Add onion and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add ginger and Thai curry paste and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the butternut  and stock, bring to boil, then simmer over low heat for 15 minutes until the butternut is cooked.
  • Cool and then blend until smooth. Return to the pan, add the coconut milk and season, then warm through.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
Serves 6

Crispy Pork Belly with Caramel Orange Vinegar

I just love Bill Granger’s pork belly recipe, I have made it time and time again over the last few years and every time it is a complete hit! The caramel orange vinegar gives it the wonderful citrus flavour which in my opinion is just the perfect partner for a pork dish.


  • 1 pork belly
  • 2 tbsp sea salt, plus more as needed
  • extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • caramel vinegar, recipe follows
  • bok choy with sweet soy and lime, recipe follows
  • freshly chopped red chilli, for garnish

Caramel Vinegar

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Red Wine vinegar
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • juice of 1 orange and 4 wide strips of orange peel
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bok Choy with Sweet Soy and Lime

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp castor sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 bunches baby Bok Choy


  • Score the skin of the pork belly in a criss-cross pattern using a sharp knife. Rub the sea salt into the pork skin, and set the meat aside for 30 minutes. 
  • Preheat the oven to 220 degrees
  • Wipe the salt from the pork skin with a paper towel and dry well.
  • Drizzle a large roasting pan with enough olive oil.
  • Place the pork belly in the pan, skin-side down, and drizzle with additional olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Sear the pork in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 190 degrees and continue roasting for another 1 1/2 hours. At this point, carefully turn the pork over and roast for another 20 minutes, or until the skin is crisp. 
  • Remove the pork from the oven, cover the meat loosely in foil and set it aside to rest for at least 15 minutes.
  • Slice the pork belly and drizzle it with some caramel vinegar. Serve with steamed rice, Bok Choy, and freshly chopped red chilli.

Caramel Vinegar

  • Put the sugar, vinegar, star anise and cinnamon in a small saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is syrupy. 
  • Stir in the chicken stock and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Add the orange juice and peel, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until thick and syrupy. Season to taste.

Bok Choy with Sweet Soy and Lime

  • Put the soy sauce and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until the soy sauce has reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice. 
  • Blanch or steam the Bok Choy until it is bright green and tender crisp. Drizzle with the sweet soy and lime and serve immediately.

Citrus Caprese Salad

Who doesn’t love a good Caprese salad, and with all the delicious juicy citrus in season right now,  I’ve decided on a combo of fresh colours and flavours. Paired with persimmon, creamy mozzarella, balsamic reduction and fresh basil, you’ll have the perfect zesty salad. You can swap out the mozzarella for goat’s cheese, and tomatoes instead of the persimmon. 


  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 persimmon 
  • 1 ball buffalo mozzarella
  • A few micro leaves 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • balsamic reduction (recipe follows)
  • black salt and pepper


Take each orange and cut off each end, then cut between the flesh and the white pith. Try to cut off as much white as possible. Then, starting at one end, cut into 1/2 inch circles. Cut the persimmons into thin circles as well. Then just start layering the oranges and persimmon on the plate. Place the mozzarella in the middle, you can of course slice the cheese and layer it in between the fruit slices. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic reduction over your salad. Season with the black salt, a good grinding of black pepper and a sprinkle of micro leaves and enjoy.

Balsamic Reduction Ingredients:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey


In a small sauce pan whisk the two together and bring to a low boil and simmer for about 8 minutes, just until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Serves 2

French Bean and Asparagus Salad dressed with Orange and Pomegranates


  • 400g green beans, stalks trimmed
  • 400g asparagus
  • 1/2 an orange segmented
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 20g chives, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut oil (or walnut oil, which is what I used)
  • salt and black pepper


  • Bring plenty of water to the boil in a large saucepan (you need a lot of space for the veggies, to preserve the colour). Blanch the beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain them in a colander and run them under tap water until cold. Leave to drain and dry. It’s really important to make sure that they get completely cold so that they don’t continue to cook, noone wants overcooked green beans! Repeat this with the asparagus , cook until crunchy . As we did with the beans, do the same with our asparagus . I leave them on paper towel to get rid of all the extra moisture.
  • Mix the garlic and chives with the oils, zest and a tablespoon or so of orange juice, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the green beans and asparagus, and scatter the hazelnuts over the top.

Citrus Cake


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one orange (just a little over 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ cup butter (melted and cooled to room temperature)

For the frosting:

  • 125 grams cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp butter melted 
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla essense
  • 2 cups castor sugar 
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add the sugar and eggs and whisk until combined.
  • Add the orange zest, vanilla essence and buttermilk and whisk until combined.
  • Add the cooled melted butter and whisk to combine.
  • Add the flour and carefully whisk until just combined, being careful not to over-whisk.
  • Prepare 2 round cake tins, grease well with a little butter.
  • Pour the batter into the tins, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before inverting it onto a wire rack and allowing it to cool completely.
To make the frosting:
  • Combine the first 4 ingredients and beat with a mixer until combined and smooth.
  • Add the castor sugar and beat until combined and smooth. 
  • Frost the cake between the two cakes, place on top of each other and frost with the remaining cream cheese frosting.
  • Garnish with a baby orange or Naartjie.

    “A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy.” ― Noel Coward

    Sandy’s Kitchen
    ClemenGold Gin

    I love South Africa’s ClemenGold sweet and juicy easy peeling mandarins, but their deliciously citrusy gin is the real palate whetter. This classic Cape Dry style gin is infused with nine botanicals – ClemenGold, orange peel, cinnamon, honey, ground almond, juniper berries, angelica and orris root, and coriander, offering a spicy warmth to chase away the chill.

    Jazz up your gin with these glorious Candied Naartjies

    Candied Naartjies


    2 cups sugar
    2 cups water
    10 to 12 medium Naartjie slices
    • Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
    • Add your Naartjie slices and reduce heat to medium.
    • Cook until slices are translucent, about 20 minutes, turning now and again to keep the cooking even. 

    • Using a slotted spoon place your slices on parchment paper-lined baking tray.
    • Let stand at room temperature overnight to dry.


    I always believe that winter is our quarterly escape from the frenetic pace of real life, it’s a wonderful time to cocoon, create and concentrate on something new.  It’s especially a fabulous time to engage in a mini digital detox. So, with this in mind, here are a selection of wintery wonderland unwinders.


    Not only is it a fabulous way to disconnect, and reduce stress – reading transports you into a different world – stimulates your mind, increases your vocabulary and stokes your imagination.  For a list of the greatest reads of all time, visit:

    JHB: Best bookstores / Love Books / 011 726 7408 / Bridge Books / 079 708 4461/

    CPT: Best bookstores / Book Lounge / 021 462 242 Kalk Bay Books / 021 788 2266


    Technically this goes against my electronic switch off grain – but podcasting is a fantastic new way of keeping current on hot topics of interest. Quick, sometimes quirky 30 minute plus sessions will have you enlightened on wherever your interests lie.

    I’m particularly loving some Foodie podcasts, it’s the perfect place for the culinary curious to dive headfirst into a mixed platter of foodie delights.

    For a quick taste of some of my favourite food podcasts /


    Yoga is the perfect indoor winter exercise (of course you can practice anywhere) but a daily winter stretch will not only help you tone your muscles, improve your core strength and posture – it will certainly help to stave off the winter blues by increasing your energy levels, harness your happiness and tap into a whole new realm of mindfulness. There is no reason to get into a winter slump, get your blood pumping and pop into some great yoga studios in both JHB and CPT.

    JHB: Yoga / Living Yoga /  Bikram Yoga /

    CPT: Yoga / The Shala Unraveled Yoga Hot Dog Yoga /


    I love this old school pen and paper process – aka Journaling, the unconscious stress release of simple doodling, drawing or making notes is an amazingly therapeutic activity. With zero talent or artistic ability needed to dabble in the art of journaling – simply grab a blank paged book, and a pen – you can along the way add in foraged scraps of material, or old receipts, stamps, stickers or photographs. Journaling is both an endless and rewarding practise and there are millions of fantastic how to / with what guides on growing your journaling talent – heres a selection of my fav by far.


    Knitting, the new-age yarn karate kid – the hypnotic casting on and off and repetitive clicking of needles will relax your mind, lower your stress levels, and keep your head or hands warm (with whatever you knit).

    I love these fabulous knitting blogs, where you can download patterns, follow the latest knitting trends and get the coolest woolly inspirations:

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