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A peep into Africa

November 27, 2012

Its funny how when I sit to write up a blog post I imagine a girlie narrator voice… you know like in the movies, with sighs, high-pitched expressions and vivid visuals of each word I type. But this isn’t a movie obviously, in fact these blog posts are the result of little voices in my head splurging out my kitchen escapades. The voices in this post however, are blurting out irreplaceable memories of one of the most exciting trip I had.

It was just a little over a year ago when I took off on a 21 day road trip from Zimbabwe to South Africa; a land of ever-changing landscapes, where the faintest sound of percussions would get the natives to sing, dance and clap their hands to acapella tuned perfect hums ; and of course an unmissable massive food culture arising from the variety of agriculture and game available to them. Here are some of the pictures during my journey through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Cape Town.

I started off with a visit to the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We then weaved our way through a few different national parks, Chobe and Etosha were a couple of the bigger ones. Watching the wild be wild is something you can’t really savor on National Geographic; wildlife is best experienced in the wild. Namibia was home to a huge part or our trip… with insanely diverse landscapes. From soft desert sands in Swakopmund, to the crocodile infested swamps of the Okavango Delta. I was fortunate to see it all, with my most favorite memories in the Okavango. We had camped a night on a houseboat; and also a night in the wilderness. As scary as it was, it was an absolute thrill. Right before we zipped up our tents we were carefully warned a few times of the wildlife around us and that we should make sure to shine a torch out before we step out. We were told that our campsite is not ours and that we could easily be visited by anything. Wildlife is obviously unpredictable and if there are any young in the herd, they will be intimidated. I slept that night hearing loud hippos in nearby hippo pools; bush ramblings from animals that had wandered around our campsite (I dared not to peep), loud crickets and of course the crackling fire fading away as the night died down. My most favorite part was the Mokoro rides in the delta. Mokoros are hollow dug out canoes, that are super light and is one of the means of moving around in the swamp. As shallow as the delta may be (just about a meter deep or so) we were advised to keep our hands and legs inside; there were crocs looking for a juicy meal. I managed to spot 23 crocs on our 45 min mokoro ride.

Amongst other things, I did wine tasting in Cape town, I stayed on a beautiful vineyard and ate in one of the best restaurants in the world(check out my post on Constantia Uitsig); I also did my shark cage dive and was fortunate enough to spot 5-6 different ones circling our boat, the largest one being roughly 4.5meters long and about a 1.5 meter wide, yup they were monsters and to be able to see them one on one, under water, before your very eyes is an adrenaline rush like no other (still gets my heart racing as I reminicize); I abseiled off of table mountain (a heart stopping 150ft drop); Got to see the second largest canyon in the world, the Fish river canyon… heard of it? neither did I until I visited, its an immaculate trench encasing a canyon within a canyon; these are amongst a few of the countless things I experienced that can’t really be justified by words.

With this post I particularly wanted to share with you an interesting experience I had with a “Gem”. On the road trip it made sense to shop fresh every 3-4 days since we didn’t have a refrigerator really…. just a few coolers. So as we were re-stocking on one of our grocery stops, I saw our chef pick up a bag full of dark green colored ‘something’. I wasn’t really sure and at the quickest glance I thought they were avocados. The chef quickly grabbed the bag as I was trying to sneak a second look and said “it’s a surprise. That afternoon we headed off to see the Himba tribe, one of the smallest and most intriguing tribes I had come across with. Their skin and hair was covered and caked with ochre, which is meant to perfume and disinfect their bodies. The ochre is layered over and over again, without showering or washing it off, hence tinting their bodies with a deep red. Apart from this, men in their tribe consider wearing ochre as a sign of beauty and vanity. It was amazing to see how this small tribe of under 50 people lived together harmoniously, with basic and simplest needs like in the caveman days. Men engage in political discussion and decisions.. and basically chilling really while the women seem to work more rigorously, sometimes building houses and sometimes… just keep busy making wooden toys, jewelry made from seeds and nuts and also other handicraft items. They don’t wear clothes and cattle is their only currency. They do sell handicrafts to tourists like us when we do visit of course, but the money is almost immediately exchanged for cattle.

After returning from our visit I saw our chef slicing and scooping something… an irresistible vegetable; a dark, tough swamp green on the outside with a yellow gem colored meaty, flesh on the inside. Thats probably where it got its name… the Gem Squash. Although a sister vegetable/fruit of the squash family, once cooked the fleshy bit shreds off like spaghetti and if served without its tough shell it can be easily mistaken as so.

I was more than excited to see it at spinneys and it has been marked a favorite in our house. These lovely gems can be stuffed with anything you want. Back at our campsite our chef stuffed it with simple corn and cheese; however I wanted something meaty (carnivore that I am) I opted to add some chorizo and a dash of cream to almost give it a mini pie like feeling.

Along with some of these pictures I leave you with a recipe of a Stuffed Gem Squash.

Africa is just wild as the sound of its name (and no please don’t have the Shakira tune playing in the back of your head) its raw, untamed and most of all ALIVE! (insert Hakunamatata track)

Enjoy,

Stuffed Gem Squash

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Allergy Milk
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot

Ingredients

  • 4 Gem Squash (when you halve them you get 8 servings )
  • ½ Large Onion (or 1 small onion)
  • 1 Medium Tomato
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Large Can of Corn
  • 250g Chorizo or your preferred protein
  • 50g parmesan
  • 50g cheddar
  • 1 cup Cilantro

Directions

Bring some water to boil in a pot.
Pop the Gem Squash in whole. Make sure to prick a couple holes (preferably in the same line you plan to cut it in half)
Cook for 15 min and set aside to cool.

Set the oven for 220 C.

On the side prepare the stuffing mixture.
Start by sautéing the onions till brown and soft. Add in the corn, tomatoes and chorizo.
Pop in the salt, pepper, juice of one lemon and cook for 15 minutes.

Slice the Gem Squash in half and scoop out the seeds .
Stuff each half with the mixture, topping it with a 1½ tbsp of cream and a sprinkle of both the grated cheeses.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes till the cheese is melted and all bubbly.

Serve hot :)

Enjoy!

Eaternally Yours,

Drina C.

Ez-Gram

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