A Moveable Feast Through Zambia

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Royal Chundu, on the banks of the Zambezi River,  has launched a new locally-inspired Tasting Menu, modelled on a traditional Zambian family feast, with several courses exhibiting the unique flavours of the country.

Describing the new menu, the team at Royal Chundu say: “Consider it a culinary adventure along our riverbank and through our greater national terroir, an honouring of the families living here today and the generations before them, and a celebration of our team of local chefs and waiters and their favourite tastes, textures, scents and memories when it comes to dining.”

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Royal Chundu’s Food & Beverage Manager and Head Chef, Sungani Phiri says it is his ambition to showcase the traditional food of his childhood by creating a “Zambian Feast Explosion” using contemporary techniques and styles. He has built on his previous pioneering menus at Royal Chundu and pushed beyond to explore and engage with new ingredients and innovative methods and presentations.

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It is the Zambian way for families to gather together at mealtimes to enjoy a variety of different dishes served at one time. The joy of community and the art of dining unite as conversation and cuisine are shared and enjoyed as a family.

Guests at Royal Chundu can now experience their own traditional Zambian feast, in a fine-dining style… Over candlelight or beneath our starry skies, the chefs weave the tales behind each dish, but for a teaser of what to expect, take a look below, along with explanations from the Head Chef, Sungani.

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Bread board of Zambian flatbread, mielie bread brioche and sourdough, served with flavoured butter and sour butter powder

This array of breads demonstrates the convergence of traditional Zambian breadmaking and global influences. The Zambian flatbread is similar to Middle-Eastern lavash and uses cassava flour, which is gluten-free. The rich mielie bread brioche is inspired by a traditional French recipe but enhanced with locally-grown sweet corn. Local mabisi (sour milk) is the secret ingredient in the sourdough which elevates this classic.

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Aromatic kapenta with tartar sauce and lemon

Mildly curried tempura-battered giant kapenta (Tanganyika sardine) served with caramelised lemon or lime and finished with a classic tartar sauce.

Tasting Menu

Medley of locally-sourced vegetables

Impwa Piccata (fried Zambian eggplant with tomato and onion relish), sautéed pumpkin leaves, crispy sweet potato leaves and tempura okra (ladies’ fingers). These popular Zambian vegetables are locally-grown in the neighbouring villages and are the accompaniments to all dishes served during the meal. Presented on platters and placed at the centre of the table, they are the heart of a classic Zambian meal.

Pan-roasted Zambezi bream with white mongu beans

“This is my favourite dish on the menu as it truly demonstrates the local culture and the area along the Zambezi River which borders Royal Chundu,” says Sungani. Local fishermen deliver freshly-caught bream to the lodge daily where the chefs create magic with saffron-infused mongu beans, sweet and sour mundambi (an indigenous spinach) and a fresh tomato coulis. The lodge vegetable garden is the source of the delicate radish microgreens, used as a garnish, as well as other fresh vegetables on the menu.

Tasting Menu 3

Ifisashi of beef with sweet potato and bacon

This dish features beef brisket slowly braised for 5 ½ hours, allowing the meat to gently soften. Next the meat is pulled apart using forks, hand-rolled into small balls, battered with egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried until golden brown. These delicacies are served piping hot with ifisashi (a classic Zambian vegetarian dish made from local spinach and peanuts), sweet potato puree and sweet potato fries with bacon foam. There is a local saying about ifisashi that says, “Nothing gets lost, everything should be consumed,” which you will find quite fitting when experiencing this feast for yourself.

Tasting Menu 2

Dumpling of Zambian dry fish, freshwater crayfish, pork mince and cabbage with spicy chilli broth

Asian style dumplings with a local twist – made from dry fish, freshwater crayfish, pork mince and cabbage served with a mild spicy broth drizzled with chive oil. Dry fish is a common Zambian meal and various species are used including tilapia and tiger fish. Although a landlocked country, Zambia turns to indigenous rivers, lakes and wetlands to harvest fish which are part of the nation’s staple diet.

Tasting Menu 1

Palate cleanser of calabash sorbet infused with moringa

“We serve our palate cleanser in miniature wire baskets which are crafted by local villagers. It takes me back to the old days, when we used wire as children to make various items, namely, as boys, to make wire cars to play with in the streets,” says Sungani.

This dish is filled with nostalgia and fond memories as well as the nutrition and natural healing found in the moringa leaves. Moringa, now recognised as a powerful health-enhancing plant, is used to infuse the calabash sorbet (calabash is a locally grown type of sweet melon).

Scent cleanser

Zambian coffee beans are served as a scent cleanser in a chitenge (a traditional Zambian printed wax fabric) bean bag. Diners sniff the beans to clear the nose and olfactory so to prepare the senses for the next taste experience.

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Mbaula (stove) roasted vinkubala, served with beef bone marrow and jus

BBQ-style beef fillet, grilled over hot coals, with a vinkubala crust served with oven-roasted bone marrow and a jus of onion puree and sweet baby carrots harvested from local farms. Vinkubala is a local delicacy similar to mopani worms (caterpillars).

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Moringa ice-cream with berry jelly, garnished with shards of meringue infused with lemon zest

Homemade moringa ice-cream is served with a berry jelly, seasonal fruit and classic meringue shards infused with lemon zest.

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Tasting Menu 10

Baobab fruit panna cotta with tamarind jelly, mielie foam and popcorn crumble

This a rare treat. The ancient Baobab is called Africa’s ‘Tree of Life‘ and it produces the only fruit in the world that dries naturally on the branch. The baobab fruit bakes in the sun for six months, transforming the green fruit into a smooth, brown, coconut-like shell. Inside this hard casing is the dry white pulp of the fruit which is used to make a panna cotta. This is accompanied by a sweet and sour tamarind jelly, mielie foam and popcorn crumble.

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At Royal Chundu, all fresh supplies are sourced within a 3 km radius of the lodge to minimise the carbon footprint, provide income for the local community and farmers and deliver the freshest tastes to guests.

Please note that ingredients may change with seasonality and availability.

A Reverie of Music & Food – The Ellerman Sessions

It starts with Cat Stevens…

But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

The first song Ard learned to play, long before he would become the front man of well-known and loved South African band, Just Jinjer. Over the course of two decades, singer and songwriter, Ard Matthews, has been honing his craft and charming people the world over.

His lyrics and melodies led the way to the incredible success of the band’s album title ‘All Comes Round’, becoming one of the biggest selling rock genre albums of all time in South Africa, achieving double platinum status in its first year.

We’re seated in the dimly-lit wine gallery of Ellerman House in Cape Town, a venue that has become, over the course of the Ellerman Sessions, a home of inspirational music, food, wine and company each month, with top musos and chefs telling their stories to hypnotised audience after hypnotised audience.

We start with the first courses of the night, creations of world-class chef, Peter Tempelhoff, whose own story is weaved alongside Ard’s.
In between each song, Peter, Executive Chef at The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse restaurant in Constantia, introduces himself and the evening’s cuisine.

He tells us about how his journey began… “My mom, a Canadian, was so bad at cooking when we were growing up in South Africa that I had to cook for the family or help mom cook. I wasn’t exposed to food in any big way but I knew that carpentry and tree-felling were not for me. I followed food and worked in the United Kingdom and then came back to South Africa 12 years ago. It’s great to be cooking in South Africa and to see how the culinary scene has taken off.”

And then to one of the primary reasons Ellerman House guests and Cape Town fans have come together for the evening:

“Tonight I’m going to take you on a journey of my culture, of South Africa. We will start with a range of breads, which came about somewhat by mistake – how the best inventions are made. You’ll taste ingredients like foie gras, which is part of my essence as a chef, pistachio nuts, black truffles from a farm in Kokstad, flavourful and pungent, and maples (inspired by my Canadian mother and her love for maple syrup).”

“We then have a Japanese inspired dish, born out of my love for the country and its cuisine, using kelp we foraged from our own Cape beaches and tuna that is fermented to make digestion easier. And before the final chocolate bento box, we have a Camembert cheesecake, which is the kind of dish that stays with you for life as a chef, it’s just so perfect.”

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

Ard follows his Cat Stevens’ cover with an original, the well-known Shallow Waters, a song of heartbreak, of losing a true love, a song he wrote about an ex-girlfriend who moved on “way too fast”.

I’m leaving shallow waters, I’m leaving all my dreams of you, I can’t go on, I want to run away… I think I’ll go today.

His song, Father and Farther follows and then those lyrics…

Sugar man, won’t you hurry
Cause I’m tired of these scenes
For a blue coin won’t you bring back
All those colors to my dreams

A cover of Sugar man, by Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, known professionally as Rodriguez, an American singer-songwriter whose songs were the soundtrack to many South Africans’ lives in the 70s and 80s. A man of myth and mystery, whom many thought had died, on account of that myth and mystery.

Ard tells us about the phone call that let him know that the great idol was well and truly alive – the day Sixto’s sister called to say that Rodriguez had heard his version of Sugar man, and “really loved it”. A call for Ard to continue on, if ever there was one…

“I never sit down to write,” Ard adds, sitting on a chair with his guitar resting on his knee, microphone standing tall in front of him. “I let it come to me, I never force things. The song comes to me in an instant. Like any art. I have such gratitude for this process. Sometimes I have the melody first and then the words come.”

Before starting his next song, What He Means, Ard tells us that the message of these lyrics is as important today as it was back when he wrote it: a message of “peace, love, more tolerance…” and, “Freedom, kindness, warm deliverance.”

With a little bit of ease and a little bit of calm
Acceptance is the key to all we know
What about a stir of compassion and lenience
What about some understanding
What about some sympathy

Ard continues to share tales about gypsy life, about having moved 30 times with his dogs and bags, about following the music, and about what drives him: “There is enough negativity in the world, I try to sing uplifting songs. I mean there’s some heartbreak in there, but overall I’m trying to shine a light of hope.”

And then… the audience breaks out cellphone lights and candle flames to sing along with that song… a song we all seem to know and love, a song that closes the night beautifully and leaves us in a dreamlike reverence for the great talent of South Africa, for the genuine power of music to unite and move and inspire, and for, well, that Camembert cheesecake slipped onto the table in front of each of us.

And there, she lies
There is no sound
For all I know
We dream the same

She knows, just what to do
Only yesterday
Speaks for yesterday
She finds all my weaknesses
She knows, just what to do

As for the full menu of Peter Tempelhoff’s treats for the night… take a look below.

Bread on the Table
Crispy lavash with pumpkin mousse, pecan granola, pickled maple, onion brioche with foie gras and pistachio, onion compote, Karoo truffle

Big in Japan
Bluefin tuna tataki, seaweed, compressed apple, wasabi furikake, sesame, tsukemono, paired with a Chenin wine

From the Braai
Koffie Bokkie, lacquered shallots, mushroom ragout, Parmesan pap, paired with Pinotage

Camembert Cheesecake
Pineapple compote, pine nut biscotti, extra virgin olive oil, paired with Paul Cluver NLH

Chocolate Bento Box

The Ellerman Sessions are the more special with their collaboration with like-minded partners, such as BMW, Bvlgari and Moët & Chandon. Take a look at future Ellerman Sessions here.

10 Questions with Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge’s Head Chef

We sat down with Head Chef, John Roux, the man behind the delicacies of a truly special corner of the Nambiti Private Game Reserve in South Africa – Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge. Get to know him for yourself in our insider’s Q&A.

1. What is your first memory of cooking?

As a child, the very first things I learnt to make were cakes and sweets. My sweet tooth has always been talking to me.

2. What makes Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge so special?

Our personal interaction with guests, the amazing experiences on game drives and unforgettable dining moments (like personal bush lunches and the boma outside under the stars), and our showcase of the unique cuisine that South Africa has to offer.

3. Favourite time in the bush and the best way to spend it?

Sunrise, looking out at the horizon and watching Mother Nature paint perfect pictures, and then sunset and moonrise, to see the sun fading away and the moon making its appearance over the mountains, the stars starting to shine in their own time and the sounds of night life filling the air.

4. How do you bring a taste of the region to your dishes?

I grew up on a farm in South Africa, working with game meat and nature’s produce, and I add this experience and influence to what we create at Esiweni, which is modern gastronomy using and celebrating local and fresh produce.

5. Describe the cuisine at Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge…

It is nothing you will find in South Africa. We infuse French and South African cuisine on one plate. We are inspired by the unique flavours, methods, presentations and deliciousness of both countries and love merging the two in unique ways.  We are motivated by this and by that Michelin star and what it represents in the rest of the world.

6. Most unusual dish on the menu?

The zebra tartare, for sure. And all the wild game meat we use in our dishes.

7. What five things has working at Esiweni taught you about yourself, life and love?

– To be calm, to enjoy life and to connect with nature

– The beauty of the produce we get here in South Africa and how to work with it in special ways

– Our small dream team is like a family and we help each other a lot, enjoy each other’s company and help to lift each other’s spirits. It has shown me great love and joy.

– To love Mother Nature even more, to use what she offers, but most importantly to give back and look after her… planting trees, saving water and reducing pollution in our air and water

– Keep people around you that share the same dream.

8. What inspires you – in life and work?

I drive all my energy and positive thinking into my creations and get a lot back from seeing guests happy when dining with us and enjoying safari life… To take on a challenge and let the guest have an experience of a life time – that is what I strive for. They don’t have to remember every taste, but I’d like them to remember how we made them feel, wherever they are in the world – to just look back at the good times they shared with us and smile.

9. Favourite ingredient right now?

We have amazing cuts of meats from our local butcher. I love working with these organic natural meats and creating something beautiful with them on the plate, a taste of South Africa.

10. Your three fantasy dinner party guests?

The Michelin star chefs, the Roux brothers – to hear all about their stories and experience first-hand

My mother – she is always by my side, my rock, my supporter

The President of Ambassador from France  – so that he can experience how we use modern French food with our special African flair