Archive | December, 2013

Baking without grain flour or sugar.

30 Dec

I love baking.

Increasingly I’m finding it difficult to bake sugar and grain-rich items while I encourage people to follow a low sugar and low grain diet. Here then is my beta version of carrot cake without grain flour and sugar. I used pureed banana in place of the sugar to add sweetness and volume to the beaten egg and oil (using olive oil instead of sunflower seed oil).

JP keen to try a slice.

JP keen to try a slice.

I didn’t have sufficient carrots so used zucchini too which works well enough. The coconut flour absorbs liquid at a far greater rate than cake flour does so I will use a third less the next time I make it. The olive oil imparts a flavour to this cake that is not entirely desirable but I’m loathed to use coconut oil instead as it is so costly. I plan to beef up the cinnamon to make it a more pronounced flavour.

While this dish meets many Paleo requirements it is still high in energy and fat because of the coconut flour, olive oil and banana.

Will let you know how the next one turns out but welcome any input if you’ve managed to bake successfully without sugar or grain flour.

Carrot cake without grain flour or sugar.

Carrot cake without grain flour or sugar.

An open letter to the medical profession

17 Dec

It saddens but doesn’t surprise me that there is such a vitriolic response to Prof Tim Noakes’ recommendation of a low carbohydrate, high fat diet to achieve sustainable weight loss. It saddens me because I, and so many of us, have elevated the medical profession to a higher level of trust than other professions and it takes much to feel we can question or challenge a doctor’s prescription. It doesn’t surprise me though as the groundswell of popular support threatens the status quo. It is becoming much harder for medical professionals to diagnose, prescribe and engage with patients to discuss their thoughts in the 15-minute billing increment.

But times have changed. Prescriptions are no longer written in latin to maintain the veil of mystery and in today’s connected world, access to knowledge from the globe’s most respected universities, is a click away.

Perhaps the time has also changed around the closed-mindedness (and, in my judgement, fear-based protectionism) by the medical profession in only considering randomised controlled studies as the basis for revisiting what was once believed to be true.

The reason, to my mind, anyway, why Prof Noakes is so vilified is that he is not satisfied to simply publish his findings in the popular press and discuss them on talk-shows. He needs to, and has, shared his opinions and findings within the sacred pages of the SA Medical Journal – a move too far for the establishment which has responded with fear and ridicule. It is this point that disappoints me the most. Instead of engaging in robust debate and re-thinking to help shape a new way  to manage obesity the medical profession appears to me to simply be protecting its position.

It is a fact that obesity and the lifestyle diseases that stem from it threatens not only our nation and health-care budget but also those of many countries abroad. Surely, if for no other reason, this has to mean that the existing approach to healthy-weight management is not working?

Prof Noakes is so committed to his view that there is another way to manage obesity that he risks professional persecution for it.

I am not alone in my appreciation to him for doing so. As someone who successfully managed to shed 70kg and have maintained the same healthy weight for 10 months now, I am hugely grateful for his outspokenness and fervour. Of course there are many factors that have contributed to my successful weight loss but I believe that the main one was my new-found appreciation that I was addicted to sugars and starch-based carbohydrates. It was only after purging myself from these toxins to my body that I was able to manage and maintain my weight loss. It is true that the terror of pending weight-loss surgery helped focus my mind on the reality of the problem but it is also true that eating a diet similar to what he recommends has allowed me to feel sated and without the cravings that haunted and ultimately undermined every other diet.

Rather than investing so much in dismissing Prof Noakes I would have preferred his detractors to mobilise a study to test his theories.


Luxury Africa in Madikwe

10 Dec

As first seen on
When Rolf Steiner and Marisa Silva, two Swiss Re executives working out of Sau Paulo, Brazil purchased Rhulani Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, near the South African border of Botswana, passion, not profit, was their motivation.
Rolf, Swiss born who still speaks English with a strong Swiss German accent, seems, at first, an unlikely candidate for life, albeit in luxury, in the bush but soon I learn that as a child he and his family journeyed to Kenya and elsewhere in Africa where the wild captured his imagination.
Marisa comes from the Argentine and in their high-level corporate careers they have lived all over the world. I ask why select South Africa as a location to invest. He replies with all the usual things about community engagement and making a positive contribution but then he also talks about South African infrastructure and rule of law giving him investor confidence. For someone who assesses risk for a living (he works as an actuary for Swiss Re while she heads their communications)  I feel rather proud that they have chosen South Africa and considered us a favourable risk/reward proposition.  He goes on to say how impressed he was with the agent who showed him Rhulani along with another lodge in the Madikwe Reserve as well as other lodges elsewhere and that within a week of viewing the properties he felt confident to purchase.
They have kept the management team at Rhulani and worked to build positive and intimate relationships with the staff here and considering they have visited five times since March, (my visit in November coincided with one of theirs) and they have weekly management meetings electronically, they plan to keep a close eye on the project.
Among the changes are telephones in all the rooms and free wi-fi in the rooms and throughout the lodge.  They have not added TV sets or docking stations to the rooms as yet still believing that people come to the bush to get away from the crackle of wall to wall media but say that guests want to be able to share their experiences and photographs immediately and not wait until returning home to do so.
Rhulani is an intimate, family-friendly luxury lodge with the personal space and quality amenities to please the most discerning of travellers. Each room as a plunge pool that while small is wonderfully deep and refreshing and timber-framed windows and doors that open back entirely to the balau deck. There is slate and rough stone work but most of the suite is clean-limed with screeded concrete floors and high thatched roofs. There is a Morso wood-burning stove as well as an air conditioning unit so guests will be comfortable no matter the temperature.
The bathroom has twin basins a feature bath as well as an inside and outside shower which is pretty standard at the five-star level. From my experience I think their suites are more spacious than other lodges in a similar price bracket. While we were there they had news of their Best Lodge 2013 award in the area by the Provincial Tourism Board.
When we visited the Madikwe the summer rains had not yet come and following on the previous dry year the ground was dusty and parched. From a game viewing experience this means there is a high concentration of game around the little remaining water which means while viewing is plentiful the environment is bleak.
Just two days after the full moon in November while being teased with one or to drops in the stifling heat before, the heavens opened and shed so much water we were not able to do a game drive on account of the roads being too sodden still the next morning.
Feeling those few drops that then became puddles and finally a deluge just as we had finished our dinner in the boma of roasted Eland fillet almost made me cry.  The earth, so hungry for water, rewarded the air with a heady perfume – a touch of clay, a note of herb, must from the nearby elephant dung freshly enlivened all combing with the smoke from the boma fire raised up as an offering to the earth mother like from an ancient temple incense censer.
For that moment I felt connected to the earth’s cycle and overwhelmed by the privilege of being outside in the bush at that very moment,  my tears competed with the rain on my now hot but happy face.
The Wild Dogs we saw, our elephant close-encounter the fact their rangers use ear-pieces so guests don’t have to listen to the radio noise or their quality, canopied and well equipped game-viewing vehicles seemed less important than just being there.
I drifted to sleep that night not disturbed by the crashing thunder and strobe lightening but soothed by it. I had witnessed mother earth suckle her young and I couldn’t be happier., @Rhulani_Lodge, Rhulani.lodge on Facebook or call 011  237-16449.


My Zambian movies

5 Dec

While staying at Royal Chundu, Island Lodge in Zambia I used the Go Pro Hero 3 camera I’m reviewing to make these two movies – one is 30 seconds, the other a minute. I’ve never used editing software before and found iMovie very easy to use.





The start of the end.

1 Dec

I feel a little sad at this being the start of the last month of the year.

In my personal and work life I think 2013 has been my best year. I succeeded in keeping off the 70kg I shed last year, I did my best work on the PR front and as a travel writer, I went kayaking in Madagascar, cruising the Baltic, mountain biking in the Cederberg and, most recently, on horse-back safari in Bela Bela, got up close and personal with the elephants and wild dogs of Madikwe and spent the most dreamy three days on the Zambezi.

I suppose what makes me sad is the fear that next year will some how be less although there is nothing to indicate that it will be.

Here are some pictures from our travels: