Monthly Archives: October 2014

SA Leg 6: Swaziland – Mozambique

From bosveld to blue ocean! The Mozambique of my memories is a paradisical wonderland of soft, white sand, turquoise-green-blue water and good times around a fire as well as under the water!

Admin first… The road from Pretoria to Ponta Malongane via the Kosi Bay border post is notoriously Swiss-cheesed with potholes! And I mean it – drive 10km/hour if you want to keep rims intact. Often it’s necessary to weave all over the place just to find road to drive on. Construction is under way to fix this, but don’t hold your breath; construction has been consistently under way for at least 10 years, and serves to back up traffic more than lay any new asphalt. Apparently the road between Swaziland and Mozambique through the Lomahasha-Namaasha border post, is in much better condition (not a difficult feat, but still: yay!)ย 
It’s only 130km from Mlilwane to border control, and another 185km to Ponta Malongane, but as with any border control I’ll err on the side of too much when budgeting time to make border payments and submit to inspections if necessary. I could enter simply having my passport with me, but since Kiernan is from the “land of the free”, he is expected to pay a gouging US$110 to get a tourist visa; driving across the border also requires inspection of original vehicle registration and licensing papers.ย 

Picture by Etimbo made available under the GNU Free Documentation License I think this is actually on an island just off the coast of Mozambique, but the white sand and wonderful water is quite representative, I think.

Picture by Etimbo made available under the GNU Free Documentation License
I think this is actually on an island just off the coast of Mozambique, but the white sand and wonderful water is quite representative, I think.

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First taste of Brazil

Well, not Brazil actually… just Sรฃo Paulo so far ๐Ÿ™‚
After four months in Sampa, as it’s called, we’ve had one or two opportunities to try something new. The first two things that Brasileiros mention when I ask about eats to try is Feijoada and Brigadeiro, both of which I think are an apt representations of Paulistanos (people born in Sรฃo Paulo), if not Brazil: welcoming and sweet.

Feijoada is a thick, stewy, meaty dish served with rice, ground mandioca and fragrant couve. Besides the rice, everything else on the plate was a new experience the first time… The stew was traditionally made of throw-away bits of meat, and while you can still find that the modern version has tender red meat and bacon bits. Kiernan and I were invited to a birthday party where they had both the traditional and more popular version; they were both super tasty! One thing that is a staple of Brazilian food and always plentiful in a Feijoada pot is beans; since the pot of food is literally stewed for hours you get a thick, tender dish out of it that, to me, whispers “comfort food” in a voice like a soft blanket ๐Ÿ™‚
Wednesdays and Saturdays are “feijoada lunch” days and I would not be surprised if people really eat this twice a week, every week. It even encourages your social, sharing side, since a meal of feijoada served at lunch restaurants (or lanchonetes) are big enough to feed two grown men, comfortably!

Feijoada pot

Feijoada accompaniments

Brigadeiro is like caramelised, chocolate condensed milk, rolled in more chocolate sprinkles! Yes, it’s very sweet… one bite is quite enough to give you a tweaky sugar high! ๐Ÿ™‚ the first Brigadeiro we had was at a friend’s house – his girlfriend threw together a can of condensed milk, a tablespoon of butter and a generous helping of cocoa powder and kept stirring at it on the stove til it was thick and sticky. Yum!! I tried my own version of this, but in an effort to survive with all my teeth, I witheld cocoa powder and rolled the white caramelised condensed milk in cinnamon powder – nice and spicy. ๐Ÿ™‚ and very nice with a glass of velvety red wine.

Sweets in Brazil tend to be very sugary and very sweet! It seems like a substantial portion of the population likes chocolate (not just girls); I routinely see people (guy, girl, old, young) polishing of a huge slab of chocolate on the metro! At another birthday party last night they had about four jars of nutella on the counter, spoons jutting out invitingly of the creamy chocolate spread; one jar was being passed around enthusiastically and all indulged ๐Ÿ™‚ True, this is merely anecdotal of one sweet experience (pun intended), but I’ve heard that many foreigners complain that sweets here are indeed super sweet.

This was bought at a bakery as opposed to homemad.

This was bought at a bakery as opposed to homemad.

Soft, sweet, creamy brigadeiro

Anoter big activity here is churrasco (like BBQ, and actually surprisingly close to braai, especially in the south). Chunks of spiced, marinated meat are threaded on kebab sticks and roasted over a fire; yum! We have yet to try the traditional version of this, but we have had really good meat in Brazil! Not really at restaurants, but at people’s homes or at get-togethers.

The next couple of foodie must-do’s we’re aiming to cross off our list, are trying food from Minas Gerais and Bahia – two places with their own, unique and distinct food cultures. These are just Brazilian eats; Sรฃo Paulo is well-known for the city you can find any kind of food. While that’s not totally the case (they don’t have biltong, but that may just be nit-picking;), Kiernan and I have had the most deliciously mouth-watering “African food”, in a mostly Cameroonian restaurant; dainty, light and refreshing Columbian cerviche & arepas. The closest you can get to sushi is a fusion of California rolls, cream cheese & fruit… I’m not kidding: cream cheese and strawberry or mango, wrapped in rice & seaweed. o.O ok. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not sushi! ๐Ÿ˜€

Cameroonian restaurant

The drinks, cocktails, beer and wine are in a world of their own; perhaps I’ll get enough letters together to write about that soon…


Filed under food & Drink, Obsessions

SA Leg 5: Kruger National Park – Swaziland

I’m preparing myself to be most surprised by the Kingdom of Swaziland… For being a country inside the borders and surrounded by South Africa, I know precious little about it. I mean, I know that it’s still a kingdom and I expect that the fauna & flora probably wouldn’t differ too much from our own (after all it’s not a large country…). ย Other than that I’ve only seen tourist brochures touting the life-changing experiences people have had visiting traditional hut-villages.

Websites like Tripadvisor weren’t much help in telling me what I wanted to know, having asked completely the wrong questions. My absolute disinterest in shopping malls and luxury spas left me with limited inspiration for this part of the trip. However, social inquiry rapidly put me on the right track: there are three major wildlife reserves in the kingdom, all managed by the same non-profit wildlife trust to promote environmental education, preserving wildlife and giving people the opportunity to get closer to nature[1]. These parks are Hlane, Mkhaya and Mlilwane, this last being home to Sondizela Backpackers, where you can set up your own tent for R80 /night. ๐Ÿ™‚

Other than wildlife viewing (which in its own right is awesome here), other things which caught my attention are exhilirating outdoor activities: abseiling and white water rafting are booming businesses. Similarly popular are multi-day hikes[2] or the challenging but none-the-less attractive Ngwempisi Day hike[3]. The Ngwempisi trails cover 33km, from the rim of the gorge, to the bottom and out the other side.
Still another experience up for offer is an outing of evening caving[4] that includes a walk through the forest, a serious & strenuous trek/climb/scoot/squeeze through the Gobholo caves, topped by dinner and a dip in ‘hot springs’. o.O I don’t know about you, but this seems like the perfect balance between exertion and leisure! ๐Ÿ™‚ The whole affair lasts 5 hours and the two of us would pay R1700 total.

Now it seems like there is too much to do for the time we will be spending in Swaziland :/ We will be spending one night here, and if Ngwempisi really does take the whole day, we may need to come back to do the caving/hot spring-ing another day.

Riveting references
[1] Big Game Parks/a> Accessed 10 September 2014
[2]The Kingdom of Swaziland – Hiking accessed 10 September 2014
[3]Visit Swazi Accessed 10 September 2014
[4]Swazi travel: Adventure Caving Accessed 10 September 2014

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Book Review: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

Even though the title simply says “Wild Fermentation”, this book tries to be much more than a simple fermentation guide / recipe book. The recipes and techniques described in the books are very interesting! Some of them are definitely easier than I thought, and I’m quite excited to try sourdough, plus some of the trickier wine ferments.

Like I said, this book does not solely consist of recipes though. The author starts out with a history of fermentation and a description of what makes wild fermentation different than aided or chemical ferments. This is an interesting melding into the narrative of his recipes and attitudes towards fermentation. Furthermore Katz gives a little bit of his own personal history and situation, which helps to make the book feel authentic and sincere.
However, there are some digressions and almost ranting chapters that get a bit out of hand. For example, after reading the first pages, then scanning some more, on his subjective opinion on GMO’s, I decided to skip forwards to something more meaningful.

The introduction to microorganisms and its influence on fermentation is awesome and engaging, but then he gets a bit lots in the maze of homogenization of food crops and the evolutionary melding of culture in general; he loses the plot by quite a wide margin, with socio-economic consequences of agriculture through the centuries… and then he brings slavery into his fermentation book… All of these topics are worthy of being explored, discussed and written about, but perhaps a fermentation book is not the best platform. I understand that Katz believes in what he is saying (he really takes issue with global culture being oppressive in his opinion), but I didn’t expect to be getting a rally talk when I picked up a book on how to make miso, you know?

Anyway, four chapters later we’re back on track with clearly described, flexible approaches to wild fermentation. I like how Katz gives household alternatives to potentially expensive equipment as well as explaining their roles in the whole process.

I think I will experiment with easier ferments that have a faster yield (bread, cider, kombucha) and later on I’m looking forward to the more complex processes (wine, miso, etc).

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