Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Atlantic Delivers a Summer's Feast

It’s nearly the end of summer – sorry to say it, but it’s true. The days are getting just a little bit shorter – morning risings are now in the dark, with me stumbling towards the kitchen in search of the coffee pot. The weather’s turned to Cape Town’s in-between period before the Autumn, when the Southeaster blows and the temperatures are still warm. When summer ends, the driving rain arrives and there’ll be no more weekend hikes, kayaking trips, or diving for crayfish – the fishing season ends in April. When the chill creeps in, I’ll be swopping my glass of Sauvignon Blanc for a rich Merlot, and my flip-flops for some nice warm booties.

Wanting to celebrate the end of summer, this weekend I planned a fitting feast to enjoy at sunset - hand-caught Crayfish (local rock lobster), Coconut Rice garnished with coriander and avocado, and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Luckily the conditions were perfect for a diving adventure in the Cape Point Nature Reserve – small swell and light winds, early in the morning. My boyfriend and I loaded up our two-man kayak, paddles, wetsuits, flippers, snorkels and goggles and made our way south past the Slankop Lighthouse, along the beach and Misty Cliffs, until finally reaching the reserve. A troop of baboons stood at the entrance, as if placed to greet us, or perhaps to collect a breakfast toll. Not their lucky day, we moved on towards our launching spot, suited up and slipped into the glossy water.

Paddling quietly, the sun still rising, birds glided low and a seal surfaced, as if to inspect us. We carried on, checking out the sea caves that open up like secret passageways into the sheer rock-face that lines the shore. We found a diving spot in a kelp-heavy zone – it was so thick the plants held us snugly in our place and we didn’t need an anchor to keep from drifting. As the swell rose and fell the these strange plant-beings were revealed in short bursts and they seemed to peer up at us in a strange chorus as the water trickling over them fell back into the sea.

It was time – we slipped into the water. Now with our goggles and snorkels in place my we eyed one another and made odd sounds to try to communicate the plan – go this way, stay steady, don’t get too close, have the bag at the ready. The water was clear and icy cold on my face, threatening to steam up my goggles. My boyfriend dove into the deep as I swam along the surface, looking through the eerie kelp forest towards the rocky bottom where my dinner was hiding, somewhere, under a dark ledge. He rose back the surface, took a breath, and dove again – over and over – time passed. Then all at once there was a rush of activity – two crayfish were in-hand! I rushed with the goodie bag to collect the creatures and quickly put them in a secure place back on the kayak.

The paddle back to shore was triumphant – so often crayfish diving becomes just a dive, with only the pure pleasure of the sea for your reward – so today we were extra-lucky. We returned home and prepared an afternoon braai on the balcony overlooking the sea. With a million-dollar view, crayfish tails on the fire, savory coconut rice topped with avocado, and a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc we felt like royalty – living the good life – enjoying a perfect summer’s celebration.

The Menu: Wine: Kleine Zalze 2009 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc Crayfish: Boil a big pot of very salty water. Take a deep breath and gooi the crayfish in – put the lid on and look away. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes – the shell turns bright red. Remove, allow to cool until you can handle it, break the head away from the tail. Cut the tail down the center – carefully remove the sand vein. When everything else is ready to eat, put the tails (now cut into halves) on the hot braai and baste with garlic butter. This doesn’t need much time, just a very few minutes, to get the smoky flavor. Coconut rice: Fry green thai curry paste in oil and butter for a few minutes, then add onions and when they are soft, garlic and mushrooms. Add the rice, coconut milk, and a little of the water you used to cook the crayfish. Don’t stir or it will become gummy – cover it and leave it till done. Garnish with coriander and sliced avocado.

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