Carlin's Real Food Trip: Part 2 - The Midlands to Mozambique
This is Part 2 of a blog about our Real Food Trip across South Africa in 2012. Read Part 1 here.
Meandering in The Midlands
Being from New Zealand I had an instant affinity with the Midlands. Its rolling grass covered hills, lush native forests and endless dirt roads leading to remote farms reminded me of home. From a food perspective it’s certainly an artisanal gold mine. There’s even a name for visiting the area and making your way around the various food and design offerings: The Midlands Meander.
The locals love the area and are more than happy to share their knowledge with you. Midlands food aficionado Nikki Brighton made things especially easy for us. Before we’d even arrived she had phoned around the food producers in the Dargle area and lined up a list of locals for us to visit. She had even arranged us accommodation on a stunning horse farm for our stay.
I’m a fan of duck. Roast duck, crispy asian duck, red thai curry duck... the list goes on. So when we were invited by Dean of Dargle Duck to come over for an evening celebration of all things ‘duck’ we accepted without hesitation. When we turned up, Dean promptly opened the weber where our meal was slowly roasting... a row of whole ducks already looking deliciously brown and crispy.
Before dinner we had a tour of the farm and were thankful that the ducks there are very much pasture raised, free range animals. Dean had even started his own organic vegetable patch to provide homegrown fresh food for his ducks, rather than relying on less nutritious commercial duck feed.
As the evening progressed, and the handcrafted beers went down, it became apparent that along with an affinity for raising ducks Dean also had a passion for lighting fires. It can get cold in the Midlands once the sun goes down, but not when you have a belly full of roasted duck, a few artisan beers under your belt and a seat next to a blazing bonfire.
Johannesburg’s Fine Food
Our first artisan food adventure in Joburg involved a visit to the The Bryanston Organic and Natural Market. It’s an outdoor market, so luckily for us the sun was shinning and the weather was fine. The market features quality handcrafted goods, naturally produced clothing, a whole food deli and (our focus for the day) stalls selling fresh organic and naturally grown produce.
The market made a great first port of call, enabling us to chat to stall holders about the Johannesburg food scene and get advice on who we should visit while in town. At the market we discovered local organic growers, ‘grow your own mushroom’ boxes, homemade artisan breads, great coffee and plenty of friendly people. For a while you forget you’re in the often hectic city of Joburg.
One supplier that stood out was a game lodge selling ethically raised ‘wild meat’ products such as kudu, springbok and warthog. The animals roam freely on the Badgerleur Lodge reserve in the same way they would in the wild and are eventually hunted in a humane fashion (ensuring the animals experience as little stress as possible). The meat is then prepared and sold to guests at the lodge or at Badgerleur’s market stall. If you’re looking for an alternative to the factory farmed produce you find at the supermarket then it’s worth considering this wild meat; an added benefit is that it’s a healthier option too.
We met someone else in Johannesburg who was passionate about ethically raised animals: Caroline McCann from Braeside Butchery. At Braeside Butchery they only source meat from animals that are pasture raised, outside feeding on natural South African grasses. Caroline told us that this form of farming can create more jobs (something that is desperately required in this country) and that the meat is healthier; for example, providing higher levels of omega fatty acids.
Crossing the border: Mozambique
Mozambique was actually our honeymoon and not really a ‘working’ part of the Real Food Trip. But of course this didn’t stop us from exploring the local food scene and it’s worth sharing a few of our experiences.
First prize would have to go to the Mozambican peri-peri sauce. It’s sold at a countless number of small roadside stalls along the main road that links the country from north to south. The sauce cost next to nothing and there seemed to be more bottles of peri-peri sauce on display than there are people in Africa. It made me wonder how the stall holders make a living.
The peri-peri is a magical blend of local peri-peri chillies (more formally known as the African Bird’s Eye Chilli), garlic, freshly squeezed lime juice, white spirit vinegar, mixed with some salt and spices (such as paprika powder). Warning, this stuff is hot, but it’s divine! I ended up adding it to many of my meals during our stay and we still have half a bottle left over in the fridge. It has such a kick to it - you only need small doses.
The other thing I’d recommend is the Portuguese bread rolls, pao; you’ll find them everywhere since they form a big part of the local staple diet. A simple yet tasty Mozambican lunch for us would involve taking a trip to the market to pick up some pao and fresh produce. We would then fill the super fresh white rolls with avocado, tomato, lettuce and a good dollop of peri-peri sauce.
Seafood and Mozambique go hand-in-hand. If you make the trip you’ll no doubt have the opportunity to sample freshly caught fish - the markets are full of barracuda fillets (known as snoek to many South Africans) which is on the ‘sassi green list’ so you can enjoy it without the guilt.
Mozambique is famous for its prawns but the sustainability of prawn farms is questionable with many reports indicating that it is very damaging to the environment through habitat destruction and pollution. So if you are going eat the local prawns, try to do so in moderation.
Final thoughts on the Real Food Trip
After three months on the road and about 11,000km under our belts we drove our travel-worn vehicle back into Cape Town. It was the end of a long journey but in many ways it we’d only just started. We’d travelled, tasted, filmed and photographed from the Western Cape to Gauteng and beyond. The long road ahead for us now isn’t about traversing landscapes, but rather about putting together the stories of the places we went and the people we met.
I’m hoping that by sharing stories of our real food experiences across South Africa we can inspire you to seek out and enjoy more ethical and artisan food in your own life, and become increasingly conscious about what you are eating. I want South Africans to think about how their food gets from the farm to the plate and consider how this process might be affecting people and the planet along the way.
According to the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment “On a global basis, agriculture is the largest threat to biodiversity and ecosystem function of any single human activity”. Most of us want to do something positive in this world - I think that being ethical about what we eat is a good place to start.
Buying portuguese bread rolls in Mozambique
Ducks roasting on the braai
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