Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Feast! Nyama choma in Kenya, outdoor braai in Namibia and Ethiopian etiquette

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we're exploring feasts across the
Kusini Collection globe. This divine table is set in the Serengeti. Photo
courtesy Axel Janssen's mobile dining experience.

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and that has us thinking about feasting! Time spent gathered around the table sharing special dishes with loved ones warms our hearts. This week, we'll explore some of the festive dishes (with linked recipes!) treasured by the cultures represented by the Kusini Collection...

The list of ingredients is long, but the results are worth it!
Tropic Ecuador: Tropic Ecuador tells us that eating fanesca during Easter is a treasured custom of every Quiteño. Unique to Ecuador, the history of the dish is unclear - perhaps invented during colonial times or possibly pre-Hispanic. During holy week, markets arrange their ingredients according to the ingredients of the soup to make purchases easier. In preparation for fasting for Lent, the dish is "conceived to preclude such a fast, and flagrantly at that." Every family's recipe differs (here's one from Nan magazine), but one thing is certain - everyone will leave full!

Traditional Ethiopian food is a feast for the senses
Travel Ethiopia: For those not familiar with it, traditional Ethiopian food can seem a bit intimidating on first blush, but adventurous diners are rewarded with exotic and deliciously spiced dishes. The cuisine is friendly to omnivores and vegetarians alike. There are a few rules of etiquette when dining in Ethiopia that most Westerners might be unaware of, but for helpful pointers from Travel Ethiopia, visit our blog. Along with some enlightening information on mealtime etiquette, you can find a recipe for doro wat, a spicy chicken dish stewed in berbere spice. It is one of Ethiopia's most famous meals, and one that is served at most holiday celebrations.

All Namibians agree - fireside dining is the most magical!
Ultimate Safaris: Nothing tastes much better than food cooked over live fire, and in Southern Africa, probably every meal (not just special occasions) would be cooked that way if possible. At Ultimate Safaris' new 'Under Canvas' camps, guests have the chance to savor a three course meal prepared solely over an open fire. Namibia's clear skies means everyone looks for any reason to BBQ outside, eat outside and drink outside - and beer is a must! An Under Canvas feast might start with stuffed gem squash, followed by marinated beef filet and vegetables and topped off with apple crumble - all under the stars!

The team at New Frontiers won't pass up a holiday
Malva pudding
New Frontiers: South African holiday feasts can be quite "British traditional'' in the sense that many people bring out all the bells and whistles which include a turkey (or duck), roast beef, traditional mince pies, glazed ham, yellow rice and raisins, vegetables like sweet butternut or pumpkin and a very traditional pudding like Malva pudding or a trifle. Malva pudding is a sweet pudding of Cape Malay origin. It contains apricot jam and has a spongy caramelized texture. A cream sauce is often poured over it while it is hot, and it is usually served hot with custard and/or ice cream. Ready for dessert? Find the recipe here.

Tamales are a holiday treat in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Sun Tours: Tamales are the traditional go-to meal to celebrate the December holidays with family and friends in Costa Rica. Given this is the only time of year when they are prepared, locals can tend to get tamale loco! Traditionally, the whole family takes part in preparing and cooking the tamales... always making extra to share when visiting with family and friends, to give as gifts, and to bring to seasonal parties and social events. Visit our blog for a recipe from Costa Rica Sun Tours, as well as some insider tips!

A holiday isn't a holiday in Kenya without nyama choma
Albatros Travel: Certain foods are considered celebratory or are a 'must' at festive occasions in Kenya. Albatros Travel tells us that any Kenyan holiday feast is not complete without a platter of nyama choma (roasted meat). Goat and beef are the two most common proteins served, but chicken (kuku choma) and fish (samaki choma) are also valid choices. Nyama choma is served with Kenya's most common food staple - ugali, (a bit like grits) and kachumbari, a tomato salsa. Read more about Kenya's celebratory foods on our blog.

Hot Tamales in Costa Rica!

Without question, Tamales are the traditional go-to meal to celebrate December holidays with family and friends in Costa Rica. In fact, although you'll find tamales throughout Latin America, the ticos in Costa Rica only make them in the month of December. Our dear friend, Leo Chaves from Costa Rica Sun Tours, say that some ticos (like his grandpa) are so loco for tamales that this is nearly the only food they'll eat for the month! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Traditionally, the whole family takes part in preparing and cooking the tamales....always making extra to share when visiting with family and friends, to give as gifts, and to bring to seasonal parties and social events.

They'll often feature seasoned meat but some prefer bean or cheese tamales instead. In addition, you'll need potatoes or rice, vegetables, cornmeal, and banana leaves....and 1 to 3 days! Of course, no tamale would be complete without some salsa lizano or chile picante to serve alongside! A few other tips: they taste better if cooked over firewood and serve them with piping hot Costa Rican coffee. Ready to take them on?

Start with a specially prepared corn meal paste, green beans, red sweet peppers, culantro, corn meal paste colored with tomato and achiote, flavored rice, sliced carrots, pork, green peas, potatoes, and…
fire-hardened banana leaves.

Next, spread the corn meal onto the banana leaf.

Spread the orange-colored paste (a blend of corn flour meal, tomato and achiote) over the corn flour meal paste base.

Begin adding the other ingredients: rice, peas…sweet peppers, carrot slices and finally add the remaining ingredients: potatoes, pork and a garnish of cilantro.

Next wrap it all up tightly into a neat bundle in the banana leaves and tie the bundle securely with string.

Finally, simmer the tamales in boiling water until they are thoroughly hot and the flavors are blended together (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours).  Alongside heat a kettle of water for the coffee.

Now your tamales are ready! With a cup of hot coffee, and a bottle of the very traditional Lizano sauce to add extra zest to your tamales, you are ready for your guests and a delicious meal!

Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Live fire cooking from Namibia

Nothing tastes much better than food cooked over live fire, and in Namibia, probably every meal (not just special occasions) would be cooked that way if possible. At Ultimate Safaris' new 'Under Canvas' camps, guests have the chance to savor a three course meal prepared solely over an open fire.

Here's an example of one of the delectable 'Under Canvas' meals - starry skies and Tafel beer not included (but make your own fun!).


Gem squash barrels

  1. Take gem squash and chop them in half, removing all pips
  2. Add a splash of Worchester sauce and then fill the gem squash with creamed sweet corn
  3. Top this with some grated cheese and a pinch of cumin
  4. Wrap in foil and place directly on coals, and cook until the sides are soft


Beef Fillet, with vegetable pouch

  1. Marinade whole beef fillet in plain yoghurt, with salt, pepper, lemon juice and onions. Leave to marinade for 3 hours.
  2. Prepare vegetables, chop up seasonal vegetables including potatoes, onions, peppers, baby marrows and butternut.
  3. Take vegetables and wrap in foil, adding crushed garlic, butt, salt and pepper. Cook on coals until vegetables are soft.
  4. Grill off fillet just before serving dinner, grill fillet over medium heat until preferred temperature. Let rest, then slice and serve with vegetables.


Apple crumble

  1. Crush 3 packets of tennis biscuits until fine, then mix in melted butter.
  2. Use 2/3 of buttery crumbs to line the bottom and side walls of cast iron pot.
  3. Then combine tinned unsweetened pie apples with condensed milk and cinnamon to taste
  4. Place mixture in to pot and cover with remainder of buttery crumbs
  5. Place on coals until warm and serve with custard

Just dessert - Malva pudding from South Africa

South African holiday feasts can be quite "British traditional'' including finishing off a meal with a very traditional pudding or trifle. Malva pudding is a sweet pudding of Cape Malay origin and is a South African favorite. The team at New Frontiers kindly shared a recipe so you can include it on your own holiday table!

Notes: recipe serves about 4


1/2 cup sherry
50 g treacle sugar
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
175 g butter
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
175 g cake flour
2 free-range eggs
220 g castor sugar
1 Tbsp apricot jam, melted, plus extra for serving
1 Tbsp vinegar
Ready made custard (for serving)


Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the caster sugar, eggs and apricot jam in a large mixing bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift the cake flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, then whisk to incorporate.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, then stir in the vinegar and milk, mixing until combined. Add the dry mixture to the sugar-and egg mixture and combine. Add the buttery milk mixture and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

Grease a large ovenproof dish and pour in the mixture. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until golden in color and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To make the sauce, place all the ingredients (cream, butter, treacle sugar and sherry) in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the butter is melted, the sugar dissolved and the sauce heated through.

Pour the sauce over the warm pudding and serve with custard -  must be served nice and warm!

Celebratory foods of Kenya

Certain foods are considered celebratory or are a 'must' at festive occasions in Kenya. Albatros Travel tells us that any Kenyan holiday feast is not complete without a platter of nyama choma (roasted meat). Goat and beef are the two most common proteins served, but chicken (kuku choma) and fish (samaki choma) are also valid choices. Nyama choma is often served with ugali and kachumbari.

Ugali is the most common Kenyan food staple. It is made by adding cornmeal to boiling water then cooking while stirring with a
wooden spoon until it turns into a dense block, which is then molded into a small mountain.  The heaviness of the meal is very filling and preferred by men who do heavy work.

Kachumbari consists of a few slices of fresh tomato and onions, sprinkled with lemon juice. Coriander leaves are added to makes it spicy.

Any party is undeniably incomplete without chicken on the menu. For especially the Luhya tribe, failure to slaughter a chicken for a visitor is a sign of
disrespect in Kenya.

Mukimo is one of the most famous dishes in Kenya, a Kikuyu staple but prepared throughout the country during celebrations and events. Green peas and potatoes are boiled and then mashed up with spinach before some green maize (corn) is added to give the mash some extra starch and texture. This hearty and heavy Kenyan food is famous to eat with roasted nyama choma meat or just some Kenyan-style stew.

Pilau is a glorified combination of rice cooked with flavor bursting spices like cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves. The fragrant rice is fantastic to eat with a form of meat stew and Kachumbari. Biriyani is another form of spiced rice that is a popular Kenyan food on the coast. The island of Zanzibar is well known for some of the best Pilau and biryani!

Chapatis can be considered more of a special form of food and a good treat during events, celebrations and festivals. This is perhaps owing to the tedious work that goes into making them. Chapatis are made with a flour dough that is wound into a coil before being rolled into a flat round circle. The dough is then fried on a skillet accompanied by plenty of oil so it becomes crispy on the edges but remains moist and doughy on the interior. Chapatis go well with beef stew and vegetables or even just rolled up with a cup of tea!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dining in Ethiopia

For those not familiar with it, traditional Ethiopian food can seem a bit intimidating on first blush, but adventurous diners will be rewarded with exotic and deliciously spiced dishes. The cuisine is friendly to omnivores and vegetarians alike. There are a few rules of etiquette when dining in Ethiopia that most Westerners might be unaware of, so Travel Ethiopia has kindly shared some mealtime rules with us.

Mealtime Etiquette

  1. Most traditional Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands. This is done by tearing off a piece of injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made from the teff grain, using it to grab some food, and putting it directly in your mouth.
  2. Traditional meals are eaten from a communal plate, but you should not reach all the way across to the other side to grab food - rather, eat what is close to you.
  3. It is polite to eat with your right hand - the left is considered unclean and therefore you should avoid using it if you can.
  4. There will always be a way to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sometimes a waiter will bring a basin and pitcher to the table.
  5. When greeting others at a restaurant, often they will have already washed their hands or may even already be eating. In place of a handshake, they will offer you their wrist; lightly grasp their wrist but do not shake it. If your hands aren’t suitable for a handshake either, you can touch your wrist to theirs. 
  6. The gursha is a gesture when a person will carefully place a morsel of food directly into your mouth. It is a gesture of respect and it is courteous to accept it.
  7. If you are invited into someone’s home, take your shoes off if they remove theirs.  Greet each person present, starting with oldest first. Always allow any elders to begin eating before you do. If you are the oldest present, Ethiopians will patiently wait until you begin to eat.
  8. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast two days a week (Wednesday and Friday), and for the two months before Easter. On these days, observant Christians do not eat or drink until 3 pm and also completely refrain from eating animal products (except for fish). 
If you're keen to try traditional Ethiopian food, Travel Ethiopia has shared a recipe for doro wat, one of the country's best known dishes, and one that is often served on holidays. The recipe makes a very tasty version with a deep, rich flavor and tender chicken pieces. Making homemade berberé is not difficult and is essential to give the dish the proper flavor. If this seems to intimidating, try to find a local Ethiopian restaurant, or better yet, plan a visit to the country!


Niter Kibbeh (spiced butter)

1 pound unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
6 black cardamom pods, crushed lightly with a knife blade
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons black cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon whole allspice
4 cloves

Berbere (Spice Mix)

1/3 cup New Mexico Chile powder
1/4 cup paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (more or less, according to taste)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 small stick cinnamon

Chicken Stew

8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large yellow onions, finely diced (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
Injera, for serving 


Special equipment: spice grinder

For the niter kibbeh (spiced butter): Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally. Stir in the ginger, allspice, fenugreek, oregano, turmeric, cardamom, garlic and onions and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the butter is clear and the milk solids remain on the bottom of the pan, about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low if the butter is boiling too quickly--if it burns it will taste bitter.

For the berbere (spice mix): Whisk together the chile powder, paprika, cayenne, ginger, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and nutmeg. Set aside.

Put the cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, allspice, cloves and cinnamon in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat, shaking the pan regularly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Cool slightly.
Grind the toasted spices in a spice grinder to a fine powder. Add to the chile powder mixture and whisk to combine. Sift the spice mixture onto a piece of parchment paper, return to the bowl and whisk again. Return the pieces left in the sifter to the spice grinder and grind again as finely as possible; whisk into the spice mixture. Set aside.

To finish the niter kibbeh: Line a strainer with dampened cheesecloth. Skim the foam from the top of the butter and discard. Ladle the butter through the strainer, leaving behind the milk solids on the bottom of the pan.

For the chicken stew: Put the chicken in a nonreactive bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare a bowl with ice water. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and salt generously, making sure there is enough water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Carefully add the eggs, bring back to a gentle boil and cook for 6 minutes. Transfer the eggs to the ice water, and shake or tap gently to crack the shells. Remove the eggs from the water and, when cool to the touch, peel. Set aside; do not refrigerate or they will not warm up in the sauce.

Put the onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. You may need to reduce the heat as the onions dry out.
Increase the heat to medium high; add 1/3 cup of the niter kibbeh, 1/4 cup of the berbere, the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and black pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken, turning to coat well with the butter mixture, and then leave the chicken skin-side down in the pan.

Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer until the chicken is very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is very thick, about 45 minutes, occasionally spooning the sauce over the chicken.

Remove the pan with the chicken from the heat and add the eggs, turning to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pan and let rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, place the chicken thighs and eggs on injera or serving plates, and spoon the sauce over.

Cook's Note

Starting the onions in a dry pan is traditional for this dish and adds a toasty taste. Just be careful not to let the onions burn. This recipe makes more than enough berbere and niter kibbeh to make the chicken. Refrigerate any leftovers to use in other Ethiopian recipes.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New East Africa flights, Bomani family suite and your moment of zen

Check out this week's video from The Manta Resort (below) to get a glimpse
of life below the water's surface (though it's pretty nice up top, too!)

What's happening this week in the Kusini Collection:

There's no shortage of photo ops in Antigua
Maya Trails: Anyone that's ever visited Antigua, Guatemala doesn't need encouragement to go again. With a stunning backdrop of volcanoes, beautiful colonial architecture and charming vibe, it's an easy place to love. But if your travelers don't know its particular draws (Coffee! Chocolate! Fantastic food! Markets!), this article from The Culture Trip might help inspire them to buy a plane ticket. You can work with Maya Trails to craft an adventure that uncovers all of Antigua's hidden gems, or check out their signature tours in the Travel Trade area of our website. And don't forget there's a lot more to explore in Guatemala!

The new family suite is generously shaded by camelthorn
Imvelo Safari Lodges: Built within a beautiful grove of Camelthorn trees and slightly away from the rest of the lodge for privacy, the new family suite at Imvelo Safari Lodges' Bomani Tented Camp has spectacular views across the plains that feature regular wildlife sightings as animals drink from the nearby waterhole. The 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite (complete with outdoor showers!) can accommodate up to six when extra beds are added. The large lounge and dining areas let families spread out, and allow for optional private dining. It's perfect for families or small groups, and guests can take advantage of all that Bomani has to offer, including its new plunge pool! The rack rate for 2018 is $419 pp/pn and Imvelo's great stay/pay specials are valid now - April 2018, and again at year's end!

Camp Cecil has been turning heads since day one!
Todos Santos Eco Adventures: The weather is turning and the Sea of Cortez is calling! We think it's perfect timing that Camp Cecil on Isla Espiritu Santo just opened for the season (November 1, 2017 - April 30, 2018). With a year already under their belts and one rave review after another (here's the latest), we can't wait to see what's in store at Todos Santos Eco Adventures' award-winning Camp Cecil this year! There is still space available so if you have a couple looking to get away, or an entire family looking to take it over, let us know as soon as possible!

Tropic's trusty steeds help take you farther afield in the Andes
Tropic Ecuador: It's hard to convey the stark beauty and vastness of Ecuador's Andes and the landscape around Tropic Ecuador's Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge. That's why it's nice to see this gorgeous photo blog from Where is Per that does its best to give travelers an idea of what a weekend escape to Chilcabamba looks like - figuratively and literally. Wide open, wild mountain scenery greets travelers and invites them to explore - whether on horseback, bicycle or foot - while the lodge welcomes them at the end of the day with a cozy fire, a warm drink and gooey s'mores. What more could you ask for?

We can't wait to nestle into one of Selati Camp's newly
refurbed rooms!
New Frontiers: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa has unveiled the new look for its Selati Camp. The seven gorgeous suites epitomize vintage style and elegance, perfectly capturing the 19th century grand steam train era when the Selati railway line passed through the land carrying gold to and from Mozambique. The intimate lodge has been long-admired for its authentic railway memorabilia and classic style, and with this beautiful refurb, the camp retained all of its charm while developing ultra-luxurious touches. Tip: Always double check with New Frontiers on space - even if online avails appear bleak, there's often space!

Chase away November grey with this glimpse under the sea
The Manta Resort: Ready for your zen moment of the day? Take a minute to sit back and watch this video from The Manta Resort. We'll take you underwater to share the incredible diversity and abundant life now thriving in their conservation area in front of the resort. Trust us, if you're working though a grey November day today, you'll thank us! We're here to assist when you're ready to chat about offering the incredible Manta experience to your guests!

CRST's new city tour helps guests uncover San Jose's
Costa Rica Sun Tours: San Jose is not just Costa Rica's capital, but also a social and cultural center, however most travelers never venture into the city, which is a shame. Costa Rica Sun Tours (CRST) aims to change that with their new San Jose Walking City Tour. The tour gives visitors the chance to discover the city's distinct neighborhoods, its parks, museums and culture. To top it off, CRST shares some of their top restaurant and cafe recommendations, allowing for a delicious stop or self-directed culinary exploration after the tour. Learn more about the tour here, or email CRST to add it to your client's itinerary.

Precision Air is making it easier to explore more of
East Africa
Classic Africa Safaris: Following a three-year hiatus, Precision Air has reinstated its popular Arusha/Kilimanjaro - Entebbe route. This enables clients to cover the distance in under two hours, rather than the much longer connection via Nairobi or Kigali. Guests arriving on the Precision Air flight for a Uganda safari extension with Classic Africa Safaris can now connect to the internal Aerolink circuit that stops in Kihihi, Mweya, Kasese and Semliki. Precision Air flights operate 3x/week (M/Th/Sa), though there is hope that frequency may increase if demand warrants. Contact Hilda with questions on timing.

Game viewing in Etosha and //Huab has been incredible!
Ultimate Safaris: Game viewing in Namibia has been leaving guests breathless! Etosha sightings are amazing at the moment - guests are having regular sightings of leopard, cheetah, rhino, elephant and lion, sometimes seeing all of these in just a few drives! Add to that the two herds of desert-adapted elephants that have made the area close to //Huab Under Canvas home, along with the chance to track desert-adapted rhino in an exclusive use concession, and your guests traveling with Ultimate Safaris will come home raving about their journey!