A refreshing Summer Salad to serve on a crisp baguette.

You will need:
4 x Baby marrows
1 tsp x Sea Salt
2 x Ripe, firm tomatoes
8-10 x Baby bocconcini cheeses (halved)
4 x Basil leaves (shredded)
4 tsp x Olive Oil
1-2 tsp Sherry
Freshly ground black pepper

  • Peel the baby marrows with a sharp vegetable peeler, into thin ribbon slices (length-wise
  • Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt.
  • Toss well to coat, and leave to steep for about 10 minutes.
  • Chop the tomatoes into 1cm. diced cubes
  • Drain all liquid from the baby marrows, and pat dry, with a paper towel.
  • Arrange them on a white salad platter.
  • Top with the diced tomato and the halved bocconcini.
  • Sprinkle with the shredded basil leaves
  • Dress with the olive oil and vinegar, sprinkle with the freshly ground black pepper.
  • Serve with a crusty baguette and your favourite Rose wine.
    Bob Appetit!

Artichoke Starter

Eating artichokes are like eating oysters – not all people appreciate it.

Saucy Chef- Artichokes in a bowl

The honest way is to peel the flower – actually, a thistle, – from outside in, till you get to the heart.

Key is a good sauce, says Saucy Chef Brian

So here goes:
One third lemon juice
Two-thirds olive oil,
A scoop Dijon mustard
Black pepper & salt to taste.

Saucy Chef Artichoke hearts

Whisk till it emulsifies properly.
Halve the artichokes and boil for 40 minutes with 1tsp salt.
Drain. Let cool slightly.
Start peeling the outside leaves.
The “choke” is the hairy part. Use a teaspoon to remove this to get to the valuable “heart”.
Dress the hearts in the sauce and toss while still warm.

Eat with melba toast or as is.

Saucy Chef Artichokes



“Holism is the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts, through creative evolution…”  – Jan Smuts


A Thought provoking question based on the above:

Why is it that Albert Einstein was so impressed by Jan Smuts and vice versa?

They both lived in the same era,  they were both great, deep thinkers! They were both greatly affected by the painful circumstances of their times,  and they both loved nature! Both Einstein and Smuts left deep inroads in the lives we all live today.

Einstein was totally absorbed by his theory of Relativity and Jan Smuts by his thoughts on Holism, and Philosophy. Relativity and Holism have many common overlapping similarities. There is plenty of common ground, in the two ‘theories’.

Albert Einstein had a lasting input in science. We all know that!
Jan Smuts, after his personal, painful experiences of the ‘Boereoorlog’ and then the Great War,  drove the initiative to form the ‘League of Nations” (The Commonwealth of Nations – the bigger picture to bridge the differences between the nations of mankind – the Holism of mankind!

Jan Smuts warned the world (America) during the Peace Treaty of Versailles that the terms were unfair, and that there would very likely be another war!  There was! Together with Winston Churchill, they were the driving force behind the formation of a homeland for the Jews – Israel.

Neither Albert Einstein nor Jan Smuts were politicians, although Smuts by allowing himself to ‘drop to that level’ burnt his fingers, and was ultimately largely rejected by his own people, due to selfish, shortsighted ignorance on their part!

These two people, through their love of nature, their ability to see the bigger picture, and their deep unselfish thinking, made a difference in our world and in all of our lives!

Through nature, it is important to endeavour to understand the Holistic picture! – God’s creation.

Please feel free to comment!

SAUCY CHEF / UPPER CRUST Home-made bread and mezze.

Another successful Saucy Chef course was held at the Upper Crust Club in Lydenburg.

The theme of the morning workshop: Home-made bread and mezze.


Saucy Chef Brian Whitehorn from Paardeplaats Nature Retreat and  André du Preez the talented, young owner/chef at Café Crust once again entertained  12  local passion chefs to a practical Saucy Chef course.


Andre shared his bread-baking skills with the enthusiastic participants who had the opportunity to craft their own ciabatta and sourdough bread. As part of the Bread and Mezze workshop, Brian demonstrated how to make an appetising, healthy “Paté Maison” or chicken liver paté, basil pesto and a hummus – a chickpea dish from North Africa. All three these dishes complimented the legendary  Café Crust ciabatta bread.


Gretli STeyn, Shelly Franke, Nicky Maartens, Nienke Nortje, Elzanda Nel, Chris Smal

Gretli Steyn, Shelly Franke, Nicky Maartens, Nienke Nortje, Elzanda Nel, Chris Smal

Paul Fallone, Shelly Franke, Hester Combrinck

Paul Fallone, Shelly Franke, Hester Combrinck

Gretli Steyn, Nienke Nortje, Nicky Maartens

Gretli Steyn, Nienke Nortje, Nicky Maartens

 Ilse de Waal, Pieter Steyn

Ilse de Waal, Pieter Steyn

Chris Smal & Stephani Roos

Chris Smal & Stephani Roos

Andre-du-Preez, Paul Fallone

Andre-du-Preez, Paul Fallone

Andre, -Nicky Maartens, & Vita Van Rooyen

Andre, -Nicky Maartens, & Vita Van Rooyen



Saucy Chef / Upper Crust Cookery Courses are aimed at those who enjoy fellowship and share a passion for food – not for food snobs or critics, but for people who derive pleasure and fun from the process of planning, preparing and presenting food, and of course, enjoying the pleasures and ambiance created around the table.

Our hands-on workshops are not only demonstrations, but rather an invite to a fun party, and easy meal, enjoying the process while learning. Participants are taught to handle the heat in the kitchen, without burning their fingers, and they also receive all the recipes relating to the course.

Day Courses are held at Café Crust Restaurant and are normally planned around a luncheon accommodating up to 30 people. This can be made up of individuals, groups of friends, birthday parties, or work colleagues, or even year-end or team building functions. Weekend Courses are held on request at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat on the Longtom Pass for groups of 6 – 8 people accommodated in 4 en-suite rooms.

Join the Upper Crust Club or subscribe to the Upper Crust WhatsApp group (0722146942) to find out more!


Crust’s Famous Ciabatta Bread

  1. Preheat oven to 230°C
  2. 2.      Mix dry ingredients together:
    1 kg flour
    12 g salt
    20 g yeast
  3. 800 ml water – must be at room temp
  4. Add water to mixing bowl and slowly incorporate flour mixture in the water, mixing either with a wooden spoon or by hand. Mix until you have a very wet and sticky dough.
  5. Oil a plastic container and add the dough. Cover with cling film and leave to rise until double in volume.
  6. Once the dough has risen, scrape out onto a well-oiled work surface. Be careful not to overwork the dough – you want to keep the air-holes in the bread.
  7. Shape into a rectangular form. Cut the dough into ciabatta shapes and transfer to a well-floured baking tray.
  8. Bake for 20 – 30 mins until the crust is golden and bread has a hollow sound.
  9. Leave to cool for 30 min and then eat.

Celebrate your success – or try again and again until you succeed!!


Trout, the darling fish of weight watchers

Dullstroom and the Mpumalanga Highlands, with its close proximity to Gauteng, has been dubbed Trouteng with good reason.


Trout has become synonymous with fly-fishing as a recreational activity. Areas with pristine waters have become popular tourist attractions. Leisure farmers, guest lodges and numerous tourism enterprises are luring outdoor lovers to their establishments.

Salmon and Trout represent the backbone of aquaculture worldwide and South Africa is no exception. Trout started reaching the South African food market in noticeable volumes by the mid-seventies. It was first introduced around 1890 when brown trout ova arrived on a sailing ship from Scotland. The first fingerlings were hatched at a Cape Town brewery where Newlands is today. Few people realise that trout pioneered aquaculture in South Africa.



Fish consumption has globally increased more than five-fold in the last fifty years with aquaculture becoming the fastest growing sustainable food producer in the world. The world’s food requirements are expected to double over the next 35 years to sustain the planet’s population of 9.1 billion people.Natural fisheries cannot meet the demand and aquaculture, with its green economy, has become a lifeline in food production.



Trout aquaculture is a good choice for a variety of reasons.

•              Talk trout and you talk minimal carbon emission with an infrastructure footprint that relatively small in relation to production.

•              T trout is not a consumptive water user and has little impact on river health.

•              Trout are cold-blooded and do not require energy to maintain body temperature. Their feed conversion ratio is 1.2 to 1 which compares favourably with other farmed animals.

•              Trout is accordingly SASSI Green Listed.


Trout has become a popular alternative to weight watchers and health-conscious consumers.

It is known to be:

•              High in Omega 3 & 6 oils

•              Recommended as a healthy way to reduce risk of heart attack, stroke or heart disease

•              Ideal for weight loss

•              0% carbohydrates

•              0% trans fats

•              High in Vit D and Vit B-12


Although trout appeals to the health-conscious and the general fish lover this fish has also become preferred cuisine to people with cultural or religious preferences.  Suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner and functions, many caterers use it as an affordable salmon replacement. The processed products make for convenient, easy starters and canapés.

Suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner and functions, many caterers use it as an affordable salmon replacement. The processed products make for convenient, easy starters and canapés.

Cool Cuisine caterer Bevvie Marais from Kook, lists filled pancakes, crostini’s, mousse and trout pies amongst her popular catering favourites.

Saucy Chef Brian Whitehorn’s Trout with lemon and herb butter accounted for 40% of his sales in his awarded Dullstroom restaurant,  Die Tonteldoos Bistro. Brian served trout for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Source: Lunsklip Fishing






Vulture Restaurant on Paardeplaats


A vulture restaurant is an area where non-toxic, poison-free meat and carcasses are provided for vultures and other scavengers. This area must be free of human traffic and totally undisturbed. The supplementary feeding, such as an animal carcass, supports the vultures in times of food scarcity and when young birds fledge.

As well as providing a safe food source, vulture restaurants provide landowners with a clean and cost-effective way of disposing of waste and unwanted carcasses. Using vulture restaurants, Paardeplaats Nature Reserve is contributing to conservation efforts and disposing of their waste in an environmentally-friendly way.

Local farmers and landowners bordering Paardeplaats Nature Reserve have started donating domestic livestock that otherwise had to be buried or burnt and is that are unfit for human consumption. Carcasses that have been euthanized or treated with certain veterinary drugs or dips are poisonous to vultures and Brian and Gerda check the validity of the donated carcass for safe feeding.

The Whitehorns utilise their vulture restaurant to raise public awareness of the plight of the species’ as these restaurants play an important role in eco-tourism.


Vultures, positioned at the top of the food chain, are an indicator of the health of the environment below them – and dependent for their survival on a healthy environment.

They form an important ecological component of our natural environment, cleaning up dead carcasses and decreasing the spread of some diseases. Despite this, vultures face an unprecedented onslaught from human activities. They have to cope with the changing landscape of progress such as electrocutions and collisions with electrical structures as well poisonings, to name a few.

In order to ensure the future of these vultures, we need to work together, spread the word, and actively contribute to the conservation of our indigenous vulture species.



hiking & mtb

Hiking in Paardeplaats Nature Retreat

explorePaardeplaats Nature Retreat

Hiking and mountain biking for both the serious and not so serious is a popular pass-time on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat

You have a choice of seven different routes totalling about 25 kilometres
The views on all the routes are absolutely spectacular!
Enjoy the explosion of sub-alpine flowers and plants in summer and the wonderful birding and small selection of game through all seasons.

No guides are needed and time is of no importance on your trail of exploration to a nearby derelict gold mine (10 – 15 minutes). Alternatively, you can follow the river to the top of the waterfall (20-30 minutes).

Pack a picnic basket for the longer hikes which are well suited for families. Don’t forget to bring binoculars and a birding book.!

Mountain biking is allowed on the Jafrie Ramble Route

hiking & mtb Paardeplaats

The Gurney’s Sugarbirds of Paardeplaats Nature Reserve

Gurney Sugarbirds on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat

Gurney’s Sugarbirds and the Paardeplaats Nature Reserve has become synonymous, mainly because of the clump of proteas on the slopes near the Sabie – Lydenburg road and the scattered protea sites all over the farm which provide a perfect habitat for these birds. During winter there is an influx of sugarbirds feeding on cultivated proteas (Western Cape species), aloes and other flowering plants. The influx to the town areas, however, is not like that observed in the 1980 and 1990’s, as fewer sugarbirds were observed in the suburban gardens during the past several years.

gurney sugarbird eggs This seasonal movement occurs mostly after the summer flowering periods of the Silver Protea (Protea roupelliae), but was also influenced by the rainfall seasons and the fire regime in the area.

Sugarbirds (and in this case – Gurney’s) has formed a close relationship with the protea species. They nest in these plant species and use the old protea flower seeds to lay out their nests for their breeding season which lasts from November to March when abundant protea flowers are available. The protea flowers, in turn, attract insects and beetle species on which they foraged. A very beneficial relationship! The conservation of their protea grassland habitat remains a high priority.

Protea bushes for Gurney Sugar BirdsGurney’s Sugarbirds have a limited distribution range on the eastern escarpment of Southern Africa in association with protea species, mainly the Silver Proteas, and this habitat are also affected by fire regimes.

These proteas are killed by hot fires and regrowth only occurs from seeds in the ground or in canopies of the trees which escaped the fires. During winter months the sugarbirds will move down the ravines on Paardeplaats where they will forage on the winter flowering Krantz Aloes (Aloe arborescens), but will return to the protea clumps which have still have flowering protea flowers available to forage on.

Guney bird ringerThe Paardeplaats Project

Paardeplaats is a private nature reserve at the foot of the Long Tom Pass in the Kruger Lowveld. The closest town is Lydenburg.
Dawie de Swardt, who is the Head of the Ornithology Department at the National Museum in Bloemfontein, has initiated a ringing project in the Lydenburg area to study the seasonal movements of the sugarbirds as far back as 1986.

Gurney Sugarbird school kidsRegular revisits to the sites have been made over the years to obtain recapture data of the sugarbirds. Dawie and other interested bird ringers have covered the lower lying suburban and higher mountainous areas which included the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve and surrounded farms such as Sterkspruit, Potloodspruit and Paardeplaats Nature Reserve on Long Tom Pass. There is one locality on the Steenkampsberg which is also monitored on an annual basis.

The Paardeplaats site is the only locality monitored since 1986 and data have been collected for more than 30 years. An amazing total of 317 sugarbirds have to date been ringed at Paardeplaats with 39 “recaptures” – birds found moving to lower town areas (and to surrounded protea clumps) and also again captured at the Paardeplaats site. A whopping total of 894 sugarbirds has already been ringed in the Lydenburg area!

Paardeplaats NatureRetreat

Sugarbird ringing at Paardeplaats has always been a very popular annual event on the birding calendar. Local school children are given ringing demonstrations and registered SAFRING bird ringers have the opportunity to handle (and ring) sugarbirds and other bird species. This well-attended bird ringing trips also create lots of training opportunities for trainee bird ringers.

Gurney birdringers

The way forward for the Gurney Sugarbirds of Paardeplaats Nature Reserve

Dawie de Swardt has played a pivotal role in the research project on sugarbirds (and SABAP2 bird atlassing project) at Paardeplaats and his interest and devotion to the Gurney Sugarbird have been the driving force behind the success of the project. However, he has assured that the project will continue even in his absence. The bird ringers of BirdLife Northern Gauteng in Pretoria have committed themselves to the Paardeplaats Project and they will monitor the bird populations annually in February, or any time of the year.
The Gurney Sugarbirds have come quite celebrities since nature photographers have discovered that they became quite tame visiting flowering aloes.

Credit:  Dawie de Swardt



The Story of the Bokoni People

The Bokoni Story Unearthed

The Mpumalanga Escarpment, stretching from Ohrigstad in the north, via Lydenburg and Machadodorp, to Carolina in the south, saw massive changes in precolonial times.

A vast expanse of man-made stone walling, which connects over 10 000 square kilometres of land into a complex web of circular homesteads, towns, terraced fields and linking roads, stretching for 150 kilometers in an almost continuous belt.

Oral traditions in the early twentieth century named the area ‘Bokoni’- the country of the Koni peoples.

These stone-walled archaeological sites, with their spectacular stone circles, terraces and pathways have inspired many exotic and fantastic tales of alien occupation, ancient temples and celestial observatories; romantic tales that take hold of the imagination easily because of disseminated knowledge about the people who built the sites.

The Bokoni formed an integral Part within a Southern African socioeconomic framework during the Late Iron Age (LIA: 1500-1820), where the importance of iron and steel to the farming enterprise showed how niche specialisations such as metalworking, would have been determined broadly by the availability of ore and wood to fuel the fires in the smelters. This differential access to resources gave rise to a vibrant trade in a wide range of local resources, such as salt, tin, iron, grain, livestock and pigment, across precolonial Southern Africa.

The Bokoni straddled trade routes, that connected the mineral-rich northern reaches of South Africa to more southerly areas.

International trade networks, like the Arab-Swahili network, followed by the Portuguese and ever-increasing competition from other European markets, tapped into these regional trade networks. The control of trade and resources would have added to the political dynamics of the interior as local tribal leaders jostled for power over resources.  Connected to systems of long distance trade which spanned the interior, linking the east coast to the vast and ancient Indian Ocean trading systems, this was not an isolated society or world, it was part of a much bigger regional system. It was during the 16th century, a period of increasing international interest in ivory and metals, that Bokoni was first settled. These settlers altered and changed the landscape to increase agricultural yield, establishing themselves on the high-altitude grasslands for the better part of 300 years.

Their intensive farming system was unique in South Africa and was the largest in southern and eastern Africa.

It included massive investment in stone terracing and cattle kraals, allowing cultivation of the rich volcanic soils, on the hillsides of the escarpment. This area housed a substantial population, organised into a vast amount of labour, for infrastructural development, and displayed extraordinary levels of agricultural innovation and productivity. Houses and livestock were secured within high circular walls, with each household’s farmland demarcated by stone markers, and terrace walls were set out, reinforced over time. Livestock were kept away from the grain crops by an elaborate track-way that funnelled them from the centre of the settlement to grazing lands and nearby water.

Oral traditions allow reconstruction of the epic political and economic struggles that ultimately brought about the downfall and abandonment of the Bokoni settlements. The ‘mfecane’ (meaning the crushing), describes a historical phenomenon, that took place in the interior of Southern Africa, from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, and was the cause of this destabilisation of the settlements and peoples of the interior.
By the 1830’s the Bokoni peoples had been incorporated into other chiefdoms or into the missions, which had already established themselves in this area.
The middle of the 19th century stands out as the period of fortified capitals. Using the expertise of the displaced Koni, chiefs set up their stone walled capitals on the summits of hills. From these lofty and protected vantage points they were able to resist the onslaught from African and European assailants. Rock Art in Thaba Chweu and the Lydenburg area is clear evidence of how the farmers of the Late Iron Age organised their living space and society.

The farm Boomplaats near Lydenburg has some of the most significant collections of LIA rock art in South Africa.
A cluster of boulders on Boomplaats are marked with engravings which depict Bokoni settlement patterns. Engravings of stone-walled circles represents the central cattle enclosures which are often surrounded by huts. Rock Art forms a very special part of South Africa’s diverse and rich agricultural heritage and is also protected by the National Heritage Resources Act (25 of 1999).

The book “Forgotten World” by Peter Delius, offers insight into stone-walled archaeological sites and an understanding of the economies of early farming societies. What makes these sites special, is that they are located on our doorstep! Education about the sites and their significance, forms part of the Lydenburg Museum’s efforts in creating awareness of these sites for scholars, the local community and tourists.
The Lydenburg Museum is situated in the ‘Klingbiel Nature Reserve’ just before the first traffic circle as one re-enters town (at the water tower). The Museum plays an active role in research projects and the protection of heritage sites. They have a copy of the ‘Lydenburg Heads’ on display and the curator, Mr ‘JP’ Cilliers (cell 082 779 3748), would willingly share his considerable knowledge with any interested party.

The ‘iron age circles’ visible from the top of the escarpment on Paardeplaats, are all from the Bokoni period.

Some of the many circles visible from the ‘top’