DELRAY BEACH, FL, June 20, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Anyone with a sensitive tummy, food allergies or sensitivities gets a little bit up tight when it comes to foreign travel. After all, what to expect? The most stalwart just stock up on protein bars and nuts and "suck it up" through the trip. That's me. So, a trip to Africa could not be good for a girl with a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. Right?
I booked my 12-day Zambian safari with African Travel, Inc. planning to follow in the footsteps of David Livingstone. Well, his steps minus the eating part. So let my story on the eating part begin. Oh, and a true confession. I had about 2 pounds of nuts and 10 protein bars in my bag, and a pretty strict weight limitation, so you know I was a bit scared.
Africans, at least in the tourist business, have adopted the English version of eating. So we began each day around 5:30 a.m. with a quasi-continental breakfast (lots to eat!), followed around 10 a.m. with a full breakfast, followed by tea around 3-4 p.m., sundowners in some remote location (cocktails and hors d'oeuvres), and dinner at 8 p.m.
Translation: Constant eating.
We started at the beautiful Mfuwe Lodge inside the South Luangwa National Park. On our first day there, we showed up at Sundowner time to the beautiful open boma looking over the open lagoon with hippos and elephants, monkeys playing on the deck. Gorgeous. But nothing quite so delightful as the plates brought straight to me, by name. Mouth-watering gluten-free delicacies, a rice paper wrapped vegetable appetizer, followed by some tiny muffins that were deliciously sweet.
The meals were much the same, always options that allowed me to eat plenty and feel special.
Next stop was Chindeni Bush Camp in the South Luangwa National Park where they even upped the ante. I had a chef there who decided to make rolls for each meal for me. I'm fairly used to just opting out of the bread course, but here they were baking especially for me. And at each of the meals and stops, the guides and waiters were bringing serving dishes prepared for me. Much more than I could eat, so I was tempting others to join in with me to eat the delicious concoctions. By now, I was begging for some of the recipes. There was a fabulous cake….I'll have to guess carrot spice since I never managed to get his recipe. And I had to begin to beg them to serve some of the selections at the next meal since I wanted to eat more but couldn't possibly stuff another mouthful in.
Now, I just have to add a bit about kitchens at a river bush camp in case you haven't experienced one. Bush camps, by nature, are made to be moveable. However luxurious, you have to be able to pick them up and move them if the water rises or the animals move. So these kitchens aren't your last episode of dream kitchen, if you get my drift. They are cooking with the basic necessities, often in a tent. I stumbled in by way of a back trail and was stupefied by just how clean and neat they could keep such a basic operation and still turn out fancy meals with china and crystal. They sometimes set our sun-setters in the riverbed with crystal wineglasses or our dinner with real china. Magicians, I think.
Our last river camp was Chiawa Camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park. I thought I'd died and gone to gluten- and dairy-free heaven. I tried to bring the chef home, but he wouldn't come with me. His spring rolls were simply to die for and served at sundown under an African sky, well, there are not words. He also made a magnificent cake so delicious you would not know it was made of other than wheat flour. And if you bake with the alternative flours, you know that can sometimes be a chore. What made his meals so noteworthy, he seldom made me something different from everyone else, he just made my food edible for me and made it look like everyone else's. That's important. Just because our bodies react differently, we don't want to be treated differently. On our last day out, we dined on the river at lunch on a delicious chicken with peanut sauce. I looked around. Mine looked like everyone else's dish, but the waiter had specifically brought my dish to me. I knew the chef had taken care of me. By our last morning, my Chiawa chef even treated me to crepes. I have never had a gluten free crepe and I thoroughly enjoyed it, drizzling it with honey and smiling my way through every delicious bite.
Now thoroughly enamored with the entire mystery of the kitchen outcome, we were treated to a back-of-house tour, meaning the kitchen and storage area. This kitchen was a hive of buzzing prep and cooks coated in white with surfaces so clean it was amazing. Under a tent, yes, but certainly not the Africa I had imagined. In the storage areas, managers Tess and John showed us how they manage the stores, protecting the building from anything from badgers to elephants. All just before an elephant comes to visit our own dinner party, sauntering its massive bulk through the camp and tearing limbs from the trees. It is part of the experience.
We ended up at the River Club outside Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. Being so very spoiled by Chiawa Camp, I had to start my reintroduction into real life. But the chef did a great job with the menu, figuring out how to make the menu items meet my needs. Honestly, far more accommodating and knowledgeable than almost any American hotel I've been in and it was apparent she had done some planning for my arrival. She did a fabulous seafood cioppino.
By the time I packed my bags to head home, I still had my 2 pounds of nuts and 10 protein bars. I never broke into my stash, not once. That's a record for me in terms of international travel. And I felt great.
I had given my dietary constraints to African Travel, Inc. and they had taken care of it 100 percent. I still think of how many times I have typed that into a box somewhere and how few times it has ever been noted. Amazing work by this tour operator. Bravo!
Gluten & Dairy Free Recipes from Chiawa Camp, Zambia, Africa
THAI SATAY NOODLES
3 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
140 gr broccoli florets
85 gr baby corn halved
1 handful of basil
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoon peanut butter
100 ml coconut milk
25 gr roasted peanuts - chopped
50 g mangetout (snow peas)
1 small red pepper - seeded and sliced
Small piece of ginger
100 ml vegetable stock
100 ml soy milk
300 gr pack pre-cooked thin egg noodles
- Mix peanut butter, chili sauce, coconut milk, vegetable stock and Worcestershire sauce to make a smooth sauce
- Pour boiling water over the noodles and stir gently to separate them
- Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the ginger, broccoli, pepper and baby corn for 3 minutes, add mangetout and garlic
- Stir-fry all for about 2 minutes
- Pour over the peanut sauce and bring to the boil
- Drain noodles thoroughly and add to the wok and stir-fry on a high heat for 1-2 minutes
- Sprinkle over chopped basil and roasted peanuts
2 tsp peanut oil
1 clove garlic
1 small fresh chili, shopped finely
1 onion, chopped finely
1 small carrot grated finely
1 tsp fresh coriander, chopped finely
Pinch of salt
Small piece of ginger grated
- We add any vegetable, peppers/ mangetout(snow peas) /green beans, etc. to make a filling that might be nice.
- Heat oil and stir-fry, garlic & chili, add onion, ginger, carrot, until vegetables soften then add coriander last.
- Meat can also be added to this mix, cook through with above mix, either pork or chicken strips.
- Prepare and make each wrapper and role to enclose filling.
- Fold in ends.
- We serve it with either soy sauce to dip or a cucumber dipping sauce or even a sweet chili sauce which also enhances the flavor.
GLUTEN-FREE BREAD - Samuel the Baker
1 cup rice flour
1 cup soy flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp normal white sugar
½ tsp fine salt
1 cup soy milk
1/3 cup veg cooking oil
- Mix flour, salt, baking powder, sugar in a bowl
- Mix liquid ingredients together in a bowl, eggs/soy milk/oil
- Use an electric mixer to mix all together
- Add dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix it all together
- Pour into a bread pan
- Oven 160 degrees Celsius or gas oven on a low heat
- Check with bamboo skewer to see if ready
GLUTEN & DAIRY FREE CAKE - Samuel the Baker
1 cup rice flour
½ cup normal white sugar
Pinch of salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Mix all dry ingredients together. Make a well in a bowl
- Mix the egg yolks with vanilla essence and oil, mix well
- Beat egg whites separately
- Add egg whites to the liquid mixture
- Mix with a wooden spoon slowly until the mix is well done
- Pour the liquid mixture into the well of the dry ingredients
- Mix all together
- If the mixture is too stiff, then add another beaten egg to the mixture to make it more soft
- Bake in low heat 120 degrees Celsius until cooked
- Check with skewer to test
PANCAKES - Paul the Chef
½ cup rice flour
2 tablespoon cooking oil
Pinch of salt
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
- Stir everything together until smooth
- Heat saucepan
- Use a soup ladle to pour mixture into hot pan
- Make sure it is thin but not too dry
- Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over pancake and roll or with syrup.
Source:African Travel, Inc.