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Booking a reservation for dinner isn’t the simple ‘pick a restaurant, confirm a table’ situation when you live in a big city. To start with, there is still a few stalwarts that refuse to even let you book a table but thankfully that trend is starting to wear thin. What is continuing to grow is supper clubs – the concepts of a non-restaurant environment being used to serve a small, intimate group of people a set menu based on one particular theme.
The Culinary Discovery Club champions migrant and refugee chefs, showcasing the food from their home countries, sharing traditional recipes with personal stories alongside. Together with Yellow Zebra Safaris*, they devised an East Africa menu to highlight dishes from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.
My safari experience is one of my favourite ever travel memories, but having done it in Kruger Park, South Africa, I had never tried any of the cuisines of the countries at this particular supper club. First up, we chipped in and learnt how to wrap our pre-prepared spiced mushrooms in a banana leaf for cooking. The banana leaves were cooked and served as the dish Matooke and Luwombo, a Ugandan/Rwandan dish served with steamed plantain (always a welcome ingredient to my dinner!).
This hands-on element is often part of the Culinary Discovery Club’s events as it gives you a chance to interact with the chef. All of our food was made for us by Colline, originally from Zimbabwe and now the owner of a cafe in Newbury as well as supper club contributor. Zimbabwe is exceptionally high on my list of places I’d love to visit, having heard incredible stories of people’s safari experiences there, and the stories we heard from the Yellow Zebra team only solidified that even more.
Our main course was Mchuzi wa Samazki, a Tanzanian/Kenyan salmon and hake curry, served with brown rice. I can’t recall eating any sort of African curry in the past, so this was a new food adventure for me to try on my own doorstep. The spices were similar to that of the Indian curries I make at home, but considerably less heat. I think the thing that always shakes my little western nerves is fish that hasn’t been boned, and this one was certainly a serving that needed careful analysing before taking enjoy a big mouthful!
Finally, for dessert, we had a beautiful Ugandan dish called Mandazi. Coconut doughnuts served with chocolate and caramel sauces were special enough, but it came with a mango sorbet that shook my beliefs of what a sorbet can be. Usually I pass on a dessert that looks like ice cream but is never as satisfying, but this one tasted of FRESH mango, rather than one that’s been languishing in a supermarket for weeks. I’m talking about the sort of mango that you only truly taste in hot climates, picked from a tree and served up there and then. I don’t know where Colline got that mango from, but I’d pay a pretty penny to eat that sorbet on the regular.
Safaris are a whole five senses experience. The sights are what you hear about, but the smells (wild animals certainly create some pongs!) and the tastes of the meals you cook with your guide or are provided at your accommodation are truly part of the trip. If you want a taste of Africa, try the Culinary Discovery Club, but if you taste, see, feel, hear and smell Africa, you must go on safari.