Tomorrow I fly up to Mfuwe in Zambia’s eastern province to introduce my bush gourmet cuisine to Norman Carr Safaris’ five-star lodges and bush camps in South Luangwa and Liuwa Plains. I will be away for six weeks, training chefs, assessing vegetable and community gardens, and redesigning menus to ensure they are as local and sustainable as possible. I regard it as my first food safari. Stuffed in among my clothes and cosmetics are packets of seeds, roots and runners; small bottles of home-brewed kachasu and wild fruit syrups and jellies. Little packets of wild nuts and indigenous millets are tucked in next to cookbooks. All of these I hope will inspire, or build recipes, or help assist in growing organic gardens.
It’s a privilege to be working with one of the oldest, most innovative, and respected safari operators in Zambia. In 1950, Norman Carr petitioned the Paramount Chief in the Luangwa Valley to set aside a portion of tribal land as a game reserve, and built the first game viewing camp open to the public in Zambia. Carr’s dream was “to secure the future of this unique wilderness by ensuring that the local population would benefit through conservation of the wildlife and habitat of the Luangwa Valley.”
My bush gourmet cuisine, developed by experimenting with, and fusing, wild edibles and indigenous ingredients with fresh locally-grown produce, complements Norman Carr’s original vision. The wild and indigenous ingredients I seek out are often grown in, or around, the gardens and fields of the Zambian chefs with whom I work. They then bring to me their inherited understanding of each ingredient, I give to them my imagination and expertise, and a collaboration is born and built upon.
These past months I’ve had many requests for my shakshuka recipe, which I will also be sharing with the chefs in South Luangwa and Liuwa Plains. I grow all the ingredients in my garden for this, our favorite brunch dish, and it’s a cinch to make. I’ll be posting updates on my foodie adventures up north and out west, and look forward to the storytelling on my return.
Shakshuka – adapted from Ottolenghi
Yield: 2 servings
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 150mls second-press olive oil or light vegetable oil
- 1 large red onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced
- 2 colored bell peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
- 2 fresh pepperdews, cored but saving most of the seeds, and cut into thin strips
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- small handful fresh thyme, chopped
- small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- small handful fresh coriander, chopped
- 4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped/ or approx. 1½ cups of tomato pasta sauce (see recipe)
- Finishing salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup water
- 4 eggs
- In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin over a high heat until you can smell the aroma, about 2 minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions, stirring regularly so as not to burn them, about 3 minutes. Add the bell peppers, pepperdews, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and half of the coriander. Continue to cook over high heat until the mixture is a bright color. Add the tomatoes, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat and cook for about 15 minutes, adding water if needed to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce. (If using readymade tomato sauce, add to the pepper mix, bring up to a simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes.)
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. It should be flavorful and potent. Set aside. *You can prepare this in advance.
- Just before serving, bring the sauce back up to a simmer over a medium heat. Create 4 gaps in the sauce, break and pour in an egg into each one. Sprinkle with a little salt, cover and cook very gently until the eggs just set, about 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle with coriander and serve immediately with ciabatta bread.