Thursday, August 30, 2012

Safaris, Chili-Lime Chicken and Uninspired Cuisine

And now we continue the South African adventures.  Warning: lots of photos at the end.

After leaving the coast we headed to Swaziland where we spent 2 days staying in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary at Sondzela Backpackers.  We enjoyed staying in cool rondavels, seeing wildlife from a bicycle, and exploring the Swazi culture.  After that we headed to Kruger National Park, where we did self drive safaris and two guided drives.  We were fortunate to see all of the Big 5 (African buffalo, Elephant, Rhino, Lion, and Leopard), named such because of their difficulty to hunt.  We also saw many other amazing animals and birds.

The food in most of South Africa is best described as uninspired.  It wasn't particularily bad, but it certainly wasn't unique or good.  This is partially due to the country's complete lack of a national cuisine, except for a strong affinity for meat and braai.  The mix of influences (Dutch, English, Indian and French) do not meld, and leave a scattered mess.  So the recipe today is my kind of braai or barbeque, Chili-Lime Grilled Chicken.

Chili-Lime Grilled Chicken
Serves 2
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sirracha
  • 1 lime, zested then juiced
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger (you could also use fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts

1. Combine oil, sirracha, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
2. Whisk until combined.
3. Add chicken breasts and coat with marinade.
4. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes, but up to 5 hours.
5. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high.
6. Grill breasts 3-5 minutes each side until cooked through but still juicy (time will vary depending on the size of the chicken.
7. Allow to set 5 minutes before serving.

Mountain Biking Safari
Zebras on the safari

Swazi Dancers
Sondzela Backpackers
View from our Rondavel
Rondavels at Sonzela
Rhino Crossing
Elephants at the Watering Hole
Kenz and I having Sundowners: Rum and Ginger Beer



Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Links: Outdoor Party Inspiration

We are taking a break from the South Africa posts for a little bit of summer fun.  The air is getting a little bit crisper and Labor Day is around the corner, which means it is time to pull out the stops and throw a summer bash to end them all.  Here are five inspirational posts to get your wheels turning. Happy Friday!

French Inspired Diner en Blanc: flash mob meats potluck.
Orchard dinner for 200: go big.
Go Picnic Style: classy meets casual.
Show an Outdoor Movie: dinner and a movie? the perfect combination.
And here are 8 tips for a classy outdoor dinner: step-by-step hostessing. 

and if you go with a potluck, here are my favorite SG potluck staples:

Artichoke Pasta Salad
North African Chickpea Salad
Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Artichoke Pasta Salad


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Red Wine Pasta Sauce and South African Camping

After spending time in the mountains we loaded up and drove to the Elephant Coast, on the Indian Ocean.  We first stopped in St. Lucia, where we explored Cape Vidal and kayaked among the crocs in the estuary.  Then we headed north to Sodwana Bay, where we swam with dolphins, lazed in the hammock, and ate this tasty pasta.  Both places are with in the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, which is comprised of the coastline and Lake St. Lucia.  Being within the park meant beautiful beaches, extensive wildlife, very cool vegetative dunes, and overpriced camping.  Our campsites did not have picnic tables or fire pits, so we made do with a makeshift kitchen of a camp stove and backpacks.
Where the magic happened: Camp Kitchen
in Sodwana Bay (Photo: Mackenzie)

Whisking the wine into the butter/oil
This is one of my favorite pasta sauces.  I often use it with gnocchi or ravioli.  In this case, our dear friend Mackenzie has a strong aversion to tomato sauce, so the mini bottles of wine we had floating around the backseat of the Micra were inspiration (thanks South African Airways).

Pasta with Red Wine Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or butter, divided*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 cups pasta, cooked to al dente**
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I find this dish needs a heavy dose of pepper)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add 2 tablespoons butter or oil and allow to heat.
2. Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  For a richer flavor, reduce heat and caramelize onions (about 30-40 minutes).
3. Add mushrooms if using and cook another 5 minutes.
4. Push vegetables over to one side and add remaining butter or oil into the other side of the pan.
5. Allow to heat briefly, then whisk wine into the fat.  Continue whisking until a cohesive, thickened sauce forms. Reduce sauce for 2-5 minutes until thickened to desired consistency.
6.  Stir the vegetables back in and add the pasta and oregano.  Cook 1-2 minutes to allow all flavors to combine.
7. Salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve topped with freshly chopped basil.

*I usually use 2 TB of each butter and oil
**for a little refresher on how to get to al dente click here

Mackenzie and I at Cape Vidal
Cape Vidal Beach
Kudu on the drive home back to St. Lucia
Seafood Feast St. Lucia
Sunrise St. Lucia Boardwalk
Kayaking (photo: Mackenzie)
Campsite at Sodwana Bay
Snorkeling with Dolphins

Post-Snorkel Hammock Time
Sodwana Bay (Photo: Mackenzie)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Roasted Potatoes and African Mountains

Lovely day of hiking at Monk's Cowl
After landing in Johannesburg, camping out in the car rental office for 4 hours, greeting our dear friends Matt and Mackenzie, and loading up our much too small Nissan Micra, we headed south for Lesotho and the Drakensberg Mountains.

Lesotho provided some annoyances ($25 fee for somehow missing the entrance stamp, threat to go to jail, cold room with no light in the bathroom, horrible roads), but was also home to jaw-dropping views and a taste of a relatively unspoiled culture.  We spent our short time there enjoying the beautiful scenery in one of the National Parks with a short hike and blessed coffee on the deck of the luxury lodge (out of our budget of course).

After leaving Lesotho we stopped in the Dutch-influenced Clarens for lunch, and then drove to the Champagne Valley where we would spend the next 3 nights at Tranquility Farm in a cottage.  We spent our days hiking, and our evenings cooking our own meals, sharing wine, and laughing.  To my joy, just outside our cottage were flourishing rosemary and thyme bushes.  While Matt and Steven used the braai (barbeque), I made one of my all time favorites: roasted potatoes with onions.  I ended up making these many times sometimes in an oven, but often wrapped in foil and thrown right into the braai coals.

Roasted Potatoes with Onions, Rosemary and Thyme

  • 6 medium red potatoes, diced to 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into half-moons
  • 3-5 sprigs of rosemary, stalks removed to yield about 2 tablespoons of leaves
  • 3-5 sprigs of thyme, stalks removed to yield about 2 tablespoons of leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2.  Combine potatoes, onion, rosemary, thyme and olive oil in a large roasting pan and stir to coat all ingredients with oil (I think your hands work best for this).
3. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
4. Roast 45 minutes, checking for softness of the potatoes and caramelization.
5. Remove and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
6. To do in the braai coals: Wrap all ingredients aluminum foil.  Cover with another layer of foil. Nestle into the coals and allow to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
Lesotho Sunrise
Rondavels and Frost in Lesotho
Hike to the Black Hole
First hike in South Africa: Monk's Cowl
Cathkin Peak
Our Cottage
Morning Goose Parade at the farm
Tugela Gorge
Ladder climb on the Amphitheater/ Tugela Gorge Hike
Squinty eyes with the Amphitheater in the background. (photo: Mackenzie)
The Amphitheater (photo: Mackenzie)