October 02, 2007

Botswana's finest chefs

Follow-up to My Family and Other Primates, Kruger Park 2007 Part 6 from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Botswana’s menus extend well beyond the cheap nasty fried chicken for which it is often derided. The kalahari is goat and cattle country. As they claim on the bank notes: “digkoma se ya banka ya Botswana” – “cattle are the bank of Botswana”. I can show you photos of roast goat and seswaa. I can make feeble efforts to explain their attractions. But you’ll really have to go there to understand. Well worth the £1000 air fare!
On our last night in the Kruger Park, we all had a great meal at the Letaba restaurant, again surprised at the excellent standards of chefs and waiters in even the most remote of places in South Africa. The next day we left our hire car at National Alamo in Phalaborwa, and drove across the mountains to Pretoria/Tshwane in “Grower’s” Landcruiser. On the way, lunch was had at the historical Dullstroom Inn high up in the hills.

“Dullstroom” – what a great name for a dorp in the middle of knowhere. I suspect that it is actually a little misleading. I bet there’s excitement if not intrigue to be found along its dusty dry streets. Well at least the fishermen are happy, the game fish growing large in the fresh and lively waters of the area. Several monster specimens are displayed around the bar, preserved in cases. A smaller but much more edible individual was served up on my plate. Possibly the best wild trout that i have eaten.

A comfortable night’s rest was had in an apartment at the Courtyard Hotel in the Arcadia district of Pretoria/Tshwane, followed by a short drive through the Magalisberg Mountains, across the Marico, and home to Gaborone, Botswana.

Goat
And the goat is served (ckick to enlarge)

And what of Botswana? Somehow it has acquired a reputation for dull food. Our friends Peter and Johanna are working hard to disprove that claim. The kalahari being goat country, they prepared and cooked a fat juicy leg, marinated in garlic. Fantastic! When slaughtering their own goat, they discovered an extraordinary world of beaurocracy, so now they prefer to buy their meat at JT Butcheries. No matter, it was perfect. Goat is a fine meat, with more depth to its flavour than all but the finest lamb. And yet even in Botswana it is known through the euphemism of “mutton”. At the Taj Indian restaurant, for example, many great goat curries (not curried goat) are served, amongst their other nice dishes.

Seswaa
Seswaa with morogo and pap

More evidence of great cooking in Botswana may be found at the Sanitas Garden Centre near to Gaborone Dam. Seswaa, the classic dish of the Batswana, is often on the menu. It is a tasty dish, but hard work to make. Essentially a cow, pounded and smashed to smitherenes, it is slowly cooked to a dry and stringy result, with plenty of fragments of bone and attendant marrow. Alongside the pulverised bovine, one traditionally recieves a good helping of mealie pap (polenta), gravy, and a concoction of green vegetables called ‘morogo’. Spinach seems to be part of the mix, however I’m also told that various kalahari grown wild herbs are essential exotic requirements.

Bobotie
Bobotie and rice

Another southern African classic from Sanitas, bobotie and rice. Minced beef, with a combination of fruit, curry and pepper typical of Karoo cooking, and topped with an egg mix. Again excellent.

A further recommendation: the patio of the Grand Palms Hotel, next to its lake, swimming pool, and play area, serves good home made burgers and salads.

Botswana then is a place for good food. Yes, there are many second or third rate restaurants springing up amongst the brash new shopping malls. And yes, Motswana are adicted to badly fried chicken. But if you know where to look, there are some world class gems.


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  1. Five good places to visit in Gaborone, Botswana

    I have in the past unfairly described Gaborone as "the most boring city in the world". That's an overstatement. The home of Mma Ramotswe does have some attractions, especially for a two year old. Here is a list of the five best things to do in Gaborone, w…

    Transversality - Robert O'Toole - 06 Oct 2007, 23:59

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