The Seven Wonders of the World. The Culinary World.

There were seven tastes that stood out, seven flavours of Africa that took me right back to the banks of the Zambezi River and the shores of the Cape’s seas, to safaris in the South African wilderness and dinners surrounded by the silhouette of the Cederberg. Distinct, yet magically complemented by the other ingredients in the seven dishes.

This is what the chefs of Relais & Châteaux do. What any good chef does. They take you on a journey. And they make you feel ok with the fact that you’re eating a day’s worth of food in one sitting.

Last week, the chefs of Relais & Châteaux Africa came together to create a multi-hands dinner for a few special guests at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg.

Together under one roof, for the first time, were Peter Tempelhoff – Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort, Anna Ridgewell – Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Virgil Kahn – Indochine, Delaire Graff Estate, Willie Malherbe – AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Sungani Phiri – Royal Chundu in Zambia, Alex Van As – Camp Jabulani, and Charles Hayward – Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Each chef created a dish for the evening. On serving, the tale behind the dish was revealed… its connection to the land, or terroir, its significance to the chef, and its knitting together of experiences and influences, far and wide.

I’ll remember the incredible company I found myself sharing the night with for some time to come, but what has my attention right now are those seven tastes of Africa that so beautifully told the stories of the continent:

  1. Biltong
  2. Wild lemongrass
  3. Atlantic tuna
  4. Morogo
  5. Springbok
  6. Amarula
  7. Rooibos

Discover how these flavours fit in to the menu as a whole below, starting with the evening’s canapés and ending with the final dessert.


East Meets South – Canapés from Delaire Graff Estate

You could call this Asian food through the eyes of a Cape Malay. Indochine Head Chef, Virgil Kahn favours the Cape Malay influences and ingredients in his cooking – it is in his blood, being from the Cape himself. In the three appetisers he prepared, he combined this touch of South Africa with a Thai influence and a hint to Japan (the robust Asian flavours being typical of Indochine), and all of this prepared with French precision…. And of course, a South African favourite, biltong.

  • Tart with smoked eggplant, green curry, green pepper
  • Cookies and cream-shrimp, red curry prawn, biltong
  • Choux craquelin-cauliflower and miso, bonito

Paired with Delaire Graff Sunrise MCC


From the Zambezi

From the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia, Royal Chundu’s Head Chef Sungani Phiri created a sweetcorn brioche, with lemon grass butter and olive oil powder, as captured below by our guest @LaurasWorldza.

The dish combined lemongrass forested from around the lodge at Royal Chundu where it grows naturally and corn from the banks of the Zambezi, a staple in the local diet. This was served with an egg-based brioche wrapped in the traditional Zambian cloth known as the chitenge, creating a true cultural culinary experience. 


Memories of Japan from Peter Tempelhoff, Executive Chef at The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse, combined influences from the East and ingredients from the South: Atlantic tuna tataki, home-fermented kimchi, Elgin apple, beet kombucha radish, sesame dressing

Paired with Delaire Graff Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2017

For Peter, this dish goes as far back as 2009, at the Relais & Châteaux Rendez-vous in Japan, when he spent time walking through the local markets with well-known chef Hiroshi of Kobe Kitano Hotel. Peter was so taken aback by the unusual tools used in their cooking that Hiroshi took him to Matsumoto where they came across a knife Hiroshi noted as particularly special, because of the unique colour bone, among other aspects. Peter now uses the knife every time he cooks with tuna, as he did in the preparation of this meal and each time he does so, he is reminded of this special time in Japan.

The tuna for the evening was caught off the shores of Cape Town. This dish also featured apples from a local farmer in Elgin in the Cape and kimchi – a favourite of Peter’s as he believes fermented foods add an important flavour to cooking. In this way the dish unites Japan and the Cape and Peter’s experiences in both locales, making it a true traveller’s dish.


Home, sweet home… a taste of South African safari life from Camp Jabulani Head Chef, Alex Van As: Springbok shank ravioli with spicy Asian broth, brunoise vegetables, panko crusted shimiji mushrooms, Parmesan foam, Thai lemon-dressed morogo and micro coriander.

Paired with Delaire Graff Shiraz 2017

Alex is passionate about pasta and wanted to introduce to this Italian element a few South African flavours – such as springbok (also the name of his much cherished South African rugby team) and morogo (spinach, being a symbol of strength) – two ingredients that evoke a sense of home for him and that in turn help to connect the diner and the chef in a more intimate way.


The Art of Sharing (AtholPlace Hotel & Villa)

Lamb Rogan Josh – Crème fraiche pastry, rainbow carrots, spiced yoghurt, and curry leaf jus.

Paired with Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa Chef, Willie Malherbe is passionate about curries – because of the numerous rich flavours you can get from one curry dish. Also important to him is family and family meals, something that he grew up with and that he wanted to recreate in a new way. His family meals always included a single large pie for the family to share, and so here he created smaller pieces of the same pie for each of us to enjoy – separately and together. Inside his love for curries shows, with the Indian flavours shining through.


An African Sunset

Londolozi’s Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell served a taste of the winter African sunset after a drought – an Amarula and white chocolate cremeux, inspired by safari life at Londolozi.

Londolozi lies in the Lowveld, a macadamia growing area. Inspired by this nut and the terroir, Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell put together a dessert that combines macadamia with another South African favourite – Amarula, to evoke what she calls a winter African sunset after the drought.


It’s simple. It’s the Cederberg

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat’s Executive Chef, Charles Hayward rounded off the evening with a taste of the Cederberg… a rooibos panna cotta, spiced cake, caramelised banana, toasted coconut, paired with Delaire Graff Sunburst Noble Late Harvest 2015.

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat  is set in the rooibos-rich region of the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa and so Charles really had no choice but to celebrate this one, simple ingredient that is so much a part of the South African national identity. He combined rooibos in a panna cotta and added the flavours of the Cape Malay spices to a delicate cake to create a memorable end to a special dinner.


All together in one place… our chefs from Camp Jabulani, Delaire Graff Estate’s Indochine, The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse, Royal Chundu, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, AtholPlace Hotel & Villa and Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat…

What an extraordinary night! Thank you to our guests for sharing in our celebration of cuisine and hospitality, to our chefs from around Africa, to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa for hosting us and to Delaire Graff Estate for the beautiful wines.

Anjajavy and the Search For Meaning

Alain de Botton has said, “Travel agents would be wiser to ask us what we hope to change about our lives rather than simply where we wish to go.”

You could say that it is exactly this sentiment that our Relais & Châteaux Inspire Me moodboard works on… a desire to encourage people to find that thing they believe to be missing in their lives, in themselves. It helps seekers to discover ways to live better, feel better and be better and is an approach to travel that speaks more to the human core, to the sense of meaning we all seek, than ever before.

Each image on the moodboard relates to a different desire or experience, for instance: a longing for a change in mind and body, a need to tune out or to be in awe, a yearning to learn, an aching for a deeper connection – with human, animal or nature, and a dream to face your fears…

Once you’ve chosen the inspiration that speaks to you most, only then do you choose the destination and the lodge or hotel. It was this that led me to Anjajavy le Lodge in Madagascar. A deep need for pretty much all of the above. I wanted to live more, feel more and be more and to do so, all roads were pointing me to this part of the Indian Ocean.

So here they are, six reasons to follow the path to Anjajavy le Lodge.

1. the desire for A change in mind and body

Sunrise yoga on the beach…

2. A need to tune out

Boat rides across the big blue…

3. A LONGING to BE in awe

Of something great, of something natural or man-made, but something grand.

4. A yearning to learn

From others and with others, and particular somewhere wholly unfamiliar to you, where every day is a mystery, a new discovery.

5. An aching for a deeper connection – whether human, animal or nature

Because nothing is quite as fulfilling as finding kindred spirits.

6. A dream to face your fears

Whatever they may be… wild animals or tiny airplanes.

Discover more about what to expect at Anjajavy le Lodge and Madagascar in our recent article on Instants, You keep me wild, I’ll keep you safe, and in our blogs:

What Do You Eat On Safari?

John and Charlotte from Los Angeles were recently staying at Tree Camp, one of our three Relais & Châteaux camps at Londolozi. Charlotte mentioned to me that she wanted to understand more about what makes the food on safari so unique and special, hence my blog today.Relais & Châteaux is about people and places. But above all, it is about people within places. The Masters of the House draw from highly unique areas where they identify authentic roots and a unique culture to offer to each client. This sense of place, this ‘terroir’ is expressed in the architecture, décor, landscapes, the spa, the service, and the various activities.  It is also expressed in the South Africa food at Londolozi.So what South African foods can you expect to experience during your safari with us at Londolozi?  Here are some classic South African flavours which we love to share…

Rusks

The quintessential way to start your morning in Africa! It is a hard, dry biscuit or a twice-baked bread and most commonly dunked into your cup of Rooibos tea or coffee.  The rusk is a light and easy way to give your body something to feed on whilst you build up your appetite on a morning game drive.  Fans of the rusk will often debate whether the Buttermilk/Condensed milk rusk is better than the Raisin & nut option.  A purely subjective choice that can vary over time.

South African Rusks

Rusks can contain condensed milk, raisins, nuts and cranberries.

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos literally means red bush (scientific name Aspalathus linearis). Rooibos is usually grown in the Cederberg, a mountainous region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Dutch settlers to the Cape learned to drink rooibos tea as an alternative to black tea, which was an expensive commodity for the settlers who relied on supply ships from Europe. Caffeine-free and delicious, we also use rooibos to flavour homemade ice cream!

Rooibos has also been used to create different varieties of South African gin, an no list of South Africa food would be complete without mentioning this classic & refreshing bushveld drink. Gin and Tonic has been a part of the Londolozi story since its founding in 1926. It all began at an auspicious tennis party, where Charles Varty and Frank Unger, after a few too many G&T’s, agreed to buy a piece of the Lowveld bush, site unseen. It is almost 90 years on and Londolozi’s love affair with the G&T continues.

Aside from the Rooibos gin (see below), our camp managers are renowned for their own unique craft gin recipes which you can check out here:

Biltong

Biltong is a form of dried, cured meat that originated in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Various types of meat are used to produce it, ranging from beef and game meats to fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is related to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats; however, the typical ingredients, taste and production processes differ.

Biltong at Londolozi

John and Charlotte told me how much they loved biltong this on their game drive as a sundowner snack amongst other things.

Shangaan Spinach

A wonderfully rich dish of homegrown spinach, mixed with ground peanuts, cream & delicate spices.  A perfect compliment to meat and other vegetables. True to the Relais & Chateaux values of commitment – ‘Taste of the Land’ – we pride ourselves on supporting the Londolozi village and are proud to say that 45% of all the green leaves on our menu come from our village gardens! These gardens are run by the Londolozi staff; from butlers to housekeepers, chefs and our habitat team! Over the past two years, these gardens have grown abundantly and we are looking forward to adding more vegetables to the menu. There is nothing better than the fresh, crisp taste of home grown rocket or spinach on a plate.

Pap & Sheeba

Pap is a traditional dish that is native to South Africans; the dish is made from softly grounded maize, which is then cooked to the chef’s desired idea of the meal that they have in mind. However grounded maize may be found in other parts of the world as well, and just differs in name. The word pap is Dutch (similar to South Africa’s Afrikaans language), and simply means “porridge” in English.

South African pap is found in every part of South Africa and is one of the country’s most staple foods.

Pap is traditionally served with Sheeba, which is a cooked sauce made of tomatoes & onions – the two combined with a piece of boerewors from the braai is the best way to eat it!

Boerewors on the Braais

Wherever you travel in South Africa, you will be sure to come across some sort of braai. It is an essential tradition to light a fire and throw a piece of boerewors on whilst listening to the evening descend into orchestral sounds. We need no excuse to do this somewhere in the bushveld!

Boerewors is a type of sausage originating in South Africa, an important part of our cuisine and it is popular across the sub-continent. The name is derived from the Afrikaans words boer(“farmer”) and wors (“sausage”). Boerewors must contain at least 90 percent meat, and always contain beef, as well as lamb, pork, or a mixture of lamb and pork. The other 10% is made up of spices and other ingredients.

A ‘braai’ is a South African term for barbeque, where meat is cooked outside on an open fire or grid.  Braai’s are typically social affairs where everyone is invited to spend time around the fire talking, drinking and savouring the food as its come hot off the fire.

Bobotie

John and Charlotte were asking if they would have this on safari at Londolozi, and it so happened we were serving it that night! This well-known South African dish consists of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping.  Traditionally served with yellow rice & chutney.

The first recipe for bobotie appeared in a Dutch cookbook in 1609, it was taken to South Africa and adopted by the Cape Malay community.

Malva Pudding

Malva pudding is a sweet pudding of Cape Malay origin. It contains apricot jam and has a spongy caramelized texture. A cream sauce is poured over it while it is hot, and it is usually served hot with homemade ice-cream

Amarula

Not only delicious on a cold winter’s morning, Amarula is a sweet, creamy liqeur made from the marula fruit that elephants go crazy for, and it can be drunk anytime in the day! From your coffee in the morning to poured on crushed ice during the day and into a Dom Pedro or Irish Coffee in the evening, Amarula is a fantastic companion to a wide variety of drinks.

At Londolozi, we whip in Amarula to a soft butter and serve it with our home baked Banana bread in the mornings.

When you come on safari to Londolozi, we serve a selection of South African and fusion dishes on both our Summer & Winter menus – this giving you a choice of what to indulge in, although most of our guests go for everything! Most safari lodges are located far from suppliers, which is why it’s so important to let us know any dietary preferences well in advance of your arrival.

Having been on safari at Londolozi or elsewhere, what are some of the other dishes that you think should be added to this list? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below as it would be great to hear your ideas…