Pathways and passages – I

February is a significant month:  I first published on Fiona’s Favourites this month, two years ago.  So after browsing through the photographs of my 1999 trip to Spain, for my last post, and thinking about time, I thought it useful to look back on what was, in some ways, was a rite of passage for me.

At the time, a few months before I met The Husband, I was in a very weird space.  That stay in Palma de Mallorca was the first real three-week holiday of my working life.  It was also a time of reflection and resolve.  When I looked at the photographs, last week, I realised that they were, in their own way, full of pathways and passages.

All were taken with (I think) a 35mm point and click camera which had been lent to me.  However, I’ve not scanned them either from the originals, or from the negatives (don’t exactly know where those are), rather I photographed them with my current camera and then tidied them up a little.  Very little – a lot less than I thought I’d have to.

Plaça del Banc de l’Oli, on the way to Carrer de l’Oli, where I stayed.

Hostal Peru, I was told, was a house of ill-repute.

Checking the plaça out on Google Maps, the building is still there, with its curtained windows, sans the sign, and the square looks a little more respectable than it did seventeen years ago.

Carrer de l’Oli

The street, in the Old City of Palma:  the building in which I stayed (on the fourth floor). The flower shop below is reflected in the windows across the way.  It was in a little spice shop down that road, to the left and up Carrer del Sindicat, that I bought my spices.

This was the view from the room in which I slept.


This old Roman house is where I had my first (of many a) cup of café con leche (coffee with milk), and which I passed regularly on my way to the Mercat de L’Olivar.

Gran Café Cappuccino, Carrer de Sant Miquel, Palma de Mallorca

Valdemossa fascinated me for a range of reasons:


The cobbled roads and the colours of neat homes with front doors that open directly on to the streets, each flanked with happy pots of flowers including geraniums which are, incidentally, indigenous to South Africa.


How long have these homes been here, I wondered, with their brilliant colours – the stones, wood, paint work, and more so, the fossils embedded in those walls?


The balcony gardens that one looks down on as one walks where Chopin and his lover, French writer George Sand did when they had sojourned in then vacant Carthusian Monastery.

CarthusianMonasteryGardenI was there in April, into May, so the beautiful monastery gardens were only just beginning to come into their own.

Equally fascinating was the trip from the village to its eponymous port.


The Virgin Mary watches over travellers between the village and the harbour;  she is perched so high up in the mountainside, I’d have missed her had I not been a passenger.


At the end of that precipitous road is the Mediterranean Sea and Valdemossa’s harbour with its boathouses carved into the cliffs.


Bunalbufar intrigued me, not just because, like Valdemossa, the village is perched atop the cliffs and it’s a proverbial day’s journey its the port below, but because of the terraces:  built by the Moor conquerors and not merely in evidence but still maintained and cultivated with citrus, olives and vines. From the deck of a bistro, aptly named Bella Vista, one can just glimpse the port at the bottom of the valley below.

Part of the answer to my question about the age of buildings, I discovered after trudging up the hill to Castell de Bellver.  This is the site of the island’s main fortress, and home to the ancient kings of Mallorca.   Elements of the building date back to before the birth of Christ, and like buildings on South Africa’s Robben Island, it has an interesting history, having served among other things, both as a royal residence, as well as a prison for royal and political prisoners.


This deep, tiny window looks from a room that might well have been a cell, down the battlements to the Mediterranean.


Another South African link: I was surprised, on my regular walks to the nearest Internet cafe, to pass this shop:  Biggie Best, an iconic South African home design company.


This 2000-year old olive tree in pride of place in the plaça, outside the post office and which, I think, had once been a court:  another sense of life, then and now.


I walked along many pathways and passages in Palma and around Mallorca.  At the bottom of the last hill that I climbed in Mallorca ….


this field of spring flowers.


© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

Windfalls and Wondrous Words

Peach Chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

I have mentioned before that words fascinate me.  With my recent foray into making chutney, when The Husband and I were discussing what should go on the label of Jan Boer’s special bottle, he asked if I was going to use the Afrikaans word for chutney, blatjang.  What ultimately went on the label is not important, but it did set me wondering.  Both English and Dutch, and therefore also Afrikaans, are Indo-European languages, so the roots of some words are common.  Often, words are similar, like “day” and “dag”;  “light” and “lig”; and “lemon” which, in Afrikaans is “suurlemoen” (direct translation:  sour lemon).

I discovered, nearly 20 years ago, on a trip to Mallorca, that I could get by, in the Old City of Palma, with less than rudimentary Spanish and Afrikaans to  buy spices, vegetables and fruit:  “pomelo” is the Afrikaans word for grapefruit.  I was very proud of myself when, as a thank you to my host, I was able to successfully shop for the necessary spices and other bits and bobs to make a traditional South African supper of bobotie, boereboontjies and geelrys with melktert for dessert*.

There were many Spanish words I could understand when I saw them written.  For example, furniture shops:  their names included “meubles” which is the same spelling as the Afrikaans word for furniture.

So where did “blatjang” come from?

Before I had satisfied my curiosity, and ending our week in the usual way, at the local pub, Jan Boer (yes, he of apricot fame), sent us home with another tray piled with fruit.  This time, yellow cling peaches.

Windfalls.  They really were.  In every sense.

This summer, the weather has been badly out of kilter:  very little wind in November and December, but some howling gales last month.  With equally unseasonally high temperatures, the farmers haven’t been thrilled and when the harvest is underway, and the wind howls, it can wreak havoc with ripening fruit.

Too Scottish to look a gift-horse in the mouth (with no apologies for the mixed metaphors), something had to be done.  Some were stewed:  summer comfort food.  Retro peaches and custard.

Peach chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

The peaches provided The Husband with something sweet while I was away…

The rest were mostly made into chutney – in some ways a very different process from apricot chutney because of the nature of the fruit:  peaches are furry;  their pips are not easy to liberate and I had decided two other things:  a recipe that didn’t necessitate a visit to the shops meant no dried fruit.  Secondly, it should not have the same spice profile as the apricot chutney.

“Un-furring” the peaches

The first task was to try to “un-fur” the peaches.  Standard instructions for doing this is very similar to those for skinning tomatoes with the added step of blanching them in iced water after their boiling plunge.

Peach chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

Well, as my old Dad would have said, that was a good game, played slow: even with The Husband’s help, those skins were not very obliging.  It wasn’t only the pips that clung to those peaches!  Contrary to all the “destructions” contained on websites and in recipe books, the skins did not just slip off.

After cogitating on this, I came to the conclusion that if the skin clung to that extent, the chutney wouldn’t be contaminated by awful bits of stringy epidermal tissue, and the worst that could happen was that the peach bits would have a bit of extra texture.

Skinning abandoned, the peaches were “segmented” and added to the pot with the other ingredients.


And cooked.  And cooked.

Peach chutney

For this batch:

2kg peaches, pipped (only half were peeled)Peach chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites
800g sugar
800ml wine vinegar (combination of red and mostly white because that’s what I had)
35g fresh ginger, chopped
6 onions (white), halved and thinly sliced
12 cardamom pods, lightly cracked
6 jalapeño chillies, thinly sliced

Put all the ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enamel) over a medium heat.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved and simmer, stirring from time to time until the peaches are soft and translucent.  This will take an hour to an hour and a half.  After about half of the time, keep an eye on it and stir more frequently so that the chutney doesn’t catch and burn.  Pot in sterilised jars.

Peach Chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

In addition to the different flavour profile from the apricot chutney, peach chutney is chunkier and sweeter which is offset by the chillies.

Oh, and If you’d like a printable version of the recipe, you can download it here.  When you do, buy me a coffee?

Back to the words

Chutney bottled, I returned to my word search.  It turns out that in 19th century South Africa, “blatjang” (pronounced blutchung) had two meanings:  a condiment and a specific dish (sadly, none of my research revealed what that specific dish might have been unless it was merely an idiomatic expression).  The condiment blatjang is described as a relish made from dried chillies and dried apricots, stewed in vinegar.

Regardless of these two meanings, the sources all agree that the word crept into the Dutch and therefore, also Afrikaans, via Malaysia and Indonesia.

As I worked through the various sources, thinking about the spice trade and the rise (or fall) of the Dutch and English as colonial powers, it all fell into place.  The Dutch East India Company centred on Indonesia and had a presence in Cape Town to supply passing ships with essential vittles.  It all makes sense, especially with the strong influence in the Cape from the Malay slaves who not only brought their cuisine, but also their language to the Cape, profoundly influencing the development of Afrikaans from the original Dutch.

Chutney, on the other hand, is an Anglicisation of a Hindi word: “chatni”, which means “to lick”, and which referred to side dishes made of fruit. These, of course, included spices.  The word also seems to have emerged in English in the 19th century and as the English so often do, they made these dishes their own by “pickling” the relishes with vinegar, and calling them “chutney”.

In Afrikaans, blatjang is now accepted as what we now understand in English as chutney, which is as I discovered when I was looking for a recipe for the apricot chutney, is a relish made with fruit, spices and vinegar – with or without chillies and/or onions.

Similarly, with the British Empire, the Indian Raj, and curry having become, in the minds of some, England’s national dish, makes the etymology of chutney absurdly obvious.

If you’re interested

Here is a list of some of the websites I visited in this wondrous word search.

* bobotie is a spiced mince with an egg custard topping
boereboontjies – literal translation is “farmer’s beans” and consists of a stew of tomatoes, onion and green beans and, traditionally with a couple of shin bones thrown in.  Among the party that evening were vegetarians, so the meat was omitted
geelrys or yellow rice is cooked with turmeric, cinnamon and sultanas
melktert – a baked custard tart

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
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