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Tastes of East Africa

October 3, 2014 Tour Operator No Comments Email Email

Fragrant and aromatic, the cuisine of East Africa reflects the vibrant heritage and mutiple influences of this intriguing part of the world.

The colourful past of this captivating region comes to life in its food, a feat that luxury experiential travel company &Beyond attempts to duplicate at its eight exclusive safari lodges in Kenya and Tanzania.

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Bringing with them a cargo of aromatic spices, Arabian traders settled on the coast of East Africa over a thousand years ago and their influence is particularly strong in the Swahili cuisine that is popular here. Rice is served in the Persian style – steamed with spices – while saffron, cloves, cinnamon and pomegranate juice are all used for flavour. Centuries later, the British and the Indians arrived, bringing with them their spiced vegetables and the Portuguese introduced new cooking techniques, such as roasting and marinating, as well as a range of new ingredients. These ranged from fruit such as orange, lemon and lime to chillies, peppers, maize, tomatoes, pineapples, bananas and even pork. Eagerly embraced and adapted, centuries later most of these have become staples of the East African diet.

Embracing this heritage, the food served at &Beyond’s East African lodges draws on these traditional flavours for inspiration, serving them up with a thoroughly modern twist. Wholesome and natural, meals are imbued with ritual and shared with joy, turning each into a celebration. Fresh produce is locally sourced and prepared and served with love.

Situated near one of the most famous river crossings for the Great Migration in the Western Corridor of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, &Beyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp is rustic yet sophisticated. Its intimate tents feature accents of nature stone and bone, while the shape of the open-air stone tower showers echoes that of the stone ovens, or jikos, that take pride of place in the open-air boma. The food served here is robust and cheerful, full of vibrant flavours. The stone ovens are frequently pressed into service to make delicious pizzas that feature unusual toppings with a decidedly African influence.

unnamed (5)Situated near Tanzania’s border with Kenya in the remote northern reaches of the Serengeti, the chefs at &Beyond Klein’s Camp took matters into their own hands, planting their own vegetables in a shamba, or organic vegetable garden, rather than relying on food deliveries to this remote region. Tended by a team of three gardeners who take turns standing guard against hungry elephants and baboons, the garden has become the focus for many of the camp’s meals. Guests are invited to private picnic lunches that feature the best of the garden’s produce, while wheelbarrows filled with freshly picked bananas, chillies, rocket, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, aubergines, papayas, avocados, onions and fresh herbs are displayed in the dining area.

Guests are invited to pick their favourite ingredients, which are turned into a selection of salads and light meals on the spot and served directly from the garden to the table.

At the mobile tented camps of &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas, meals are just as much about the setting as about the ingredients. With no permanent kitchen, simple yet delicious dishes are prepared over the coals. A spectacular setting beneath open skies adds to the atmosphere of the meals, which are lighted by the glow of lanterns and served on real crystal and silver.

Cradled in the boughs of a mahogany forest, at &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge the focus is on fun, interactive outdoor cooking in the traditional open boma. Organic and fresh, food ranges from pale white cheeses and rice puddings to vibrant salads and colourful avocado or tomato soups, while the lodge’s tandoori oven adds an authentic touch of spice.

Of all &Beyond’s East African camps, the opulent &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge has the most formal menu, with delicious fine dining creations served in the elegant dining rooms. The lodge also boasts an intimate wine cellar and guests allowing guests to pair their meals with Africa’s finest wines.

A private and exclusive island off the coast of Zanzibar, &Beyond Mnemba Island offers its guests a menu that is individually tailored around their tastes on a daily basis. Local fishermen deliver fresh fish and seafood every morning.  While the daily menu offers treats such as the lobster lemongrass burger, served with homemade tomato jam and wasabi mayonnaise, the lodge’s chef discusses the offerings with each guest every morning, giving them the opportunity to tailor the menu to their wishes. The lodge’s famous beach barbeques offer a selection of lobster, prawns, fish, chicken or beef, while intimate dinners served in the guest’s private beach banda or deep in the heart of the pine forest include dishes such as octopus in tomato and coconut chilli or Oriental seared tuna.

The delights continue at &Beyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, set in Kenya’s renowned Masai Mara, where contemporary dishes make their way straight from the garden to the table. The camp’s thriving organic vegetable garden, or shamba, takes pride of place in an al fresco courtyard near the guest dining area. Diners are invited to browse the rows of irresistibly fresh vegetables and select their favourites. The ingredients are immediately whisked off to the interactive kitchen, where guests can watch as they are converted into a healthy and delicious lunch. Juicy green peppers grow alongside crunchy lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, rocket and succulent black cocktail tomatoes, while chillies, chives, sage, basil, mustard leaves, garlic chives, rosemary and dill add flavour.

In addition to the mouth-watering feasts prepared by &Beyond’s kitchen character and presentation. Ice cold and refreshing &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is famous for its frozen gin and tonic, served while looking out over peaceful surrounding from an elevated deck.

At &Beyond Mnemba Island a butler discretely delivers dawa cocktails, made with sweet honey, sugar, vodka and lime, to the private beach sala at sunset.

No matter what your drink of choice, a sunset cocktail at an &Beyond lodge is bound to be truly memorable, whether enjoyed listening to whispering waves of the Indian Ocean, on the rim of the famous Ngorongoro Crater or standing in the spot where the closing scene in the classical African drama Out of Africa was filmed.

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