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Our latest blog addition has been a long time coming! A few weeks back, we put down the kitchen tools, packed our bags and headed off to Southern Africa. What an adventure it proved to be. On the back of that trip we decided to take a slight detour from the Pacific Islands (now almost completed) to the five countries we visited on the trip....Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Fresh in mind and armed with a new cookbook from that side of the world (thank you Sean and Daniella!), we bring you...Namibia.
Almost two weeks was spent self-driving the stunning landscapes of Namibia. From the world's oldest desert and inhospitable Skeleton Coast to the splendours of Etosha's wildlife, this country appeared to have everything. One of our most anticipated activities in visiting the country was seeing what the food was like and in particular, what influence the German colonial past has had on it.
Our first meal in Namibia was at Joe's Beerhouse in Windhoek, Namibia's capital. As one might expect being in Africa, the food has a heavy dependence on meat. Aaron's 'Bushman Sosatie' did not disappoint. The traditional skewer consisted of crocodile, zebra, kudu, oryx and springbok with some traditional mieliepap croquettes on the side. This was a sign of things to come for the duration of our trip, with game meats often being on the menu...or all of the menu. The coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay did provide a slight change with plentiful seafood available.
More German influence was seen in Swakopmund's cityscape, the plentiful Bavarian beers and the hotel (or pension) breakfasts. At times it felt like we were at an inn in Munich with the assortment of European breads, cold meats, cheeses and strong coffee on offer. To cap it off, the decor and breakfast staff were all German as well. Other Namibian specialities we experienced included the traditional braaivleis (meat barbeque) and potjiekos, a spicy stew of meat, chicken and fish cooked in a cast iron, three-legged pot over an open fire.
Joining us for our take on Namibia were good friends, Piet, Liv and their little man, Jos. When it came to assembling a menu, we looked to our new cookbook 'Tastes of Africa' for the main dish. Seeing as our meat selection in New Zealand isn't quite the same as Namibia, we went with chicken drumsticks with port and raisins. The port and raisins import an intriguing sweetish favour to the chicken. Apparently a tradition has developed in Namibia in which the dish is served for romantic dinners, which this was not, but hey. Boiled potatoes were served with the meat and sauce.
Accompanying the main dish was Namibian mielie pap and fried cabbage, two staple foods. Mielie pap is a doughy maize paste, considered to be one of the national dishes of Namibia. Dutch in origin, pap means porridge and miele means maize. Pap is made from cornmeal which typically comes from white corn or millet depending on the region. It is served alongside everything you eat in Namibia, essentially the cornerstone of any meal.
The fried cabbage was an easy side dish, unusually tasty with caramelised onions, garlic, ginger and turmeric.
For something sweet we found fat cakes. Although we didn't taste these during our travels, these little balls of fried dough are often served at breakfast and are a favourite of street vendors and marketplaces. Sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar they are irresistible but as the name suggests, perhaps best taken in moderation. Rounding out our dessert was a creamy Amarula cocktail!
Chicken with Port and Raisins
Refer 'Taste of Africa' by Justice Kamanga, pg. 59
Namibian Miele Pap
3 1/2 cups water divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups of white fine cornmeal
1 head of green cabbage chopped
1/2 large white onion chopped
6 cloves garlic minced
2 inches ginger peeled and minced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Juice of 1 lime
salt to taste
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Fat Cakes (serves 20-25)
6 cups cake flour
10 gram instant yeast
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups water
Oil for frying
Keeping with our tradition, all diners brought along a fun fact or two to the table to share:
The largest crystal in the world, all 14 tonne of it, is located in the Kristall Galerie (Swakopmund, Nambia)
Namibia is home to the Skeleton Coast. Named after all the whale and seal skeletons lining the coast (and a few humans ones as well), over 1000 ships have run aground and met their end here due to blinding fog, treacherous currents and wild waves. The Bushmen refer to it as 'The Land God Made in Anger'. The Portuguese referred to it as 'The Gates of Hell'. However it is also home to one of the world’s largest seal populations with almost 100,000 seals.
The discovery of diamonds along Namibia's coast in 1908 led the German government of the time to establish Sperrgebiet, the "forbidden zone." Today the 10,000-square-mile area is known as the National Diamond Area, and it is monitored by armed patrols to prevent illegal trespassing. If you're looking for a place to purchase cheap diamonds, look no further.
Although we managed to see a lot of Namibia, there were a few places we couldn't fit into the itinerary. So here are those places we would jump at the chance to visit:
Hit the 90km 5-day hiking trail through Fish River Canyon. The canyon is the largest in Africa and disputably the second largest in the world. It’s 160km long, 27km wide and up to 550m deep!
Wander through the dilapidated ghost town of Kolmanskop. Founded in the early 1900's when diamonds were discovered, the grand German houses are now being swallowed by the desert sands.
Drive through and stay a night or two in the Caprivi Strip. Ravaged by numerous civil wars, the narrow strip of land bordered by four countries, is now a wildlife wonderland
Next week we head across to South Africa. Join our subscribers list and you'll get an email informing you of our next post!
The spectacular Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert