---You can travel with Sarah Graham on her Food Safari weekdays at 4pm and then via SBS On Demand ---
"If I stop and think about how I grew up with lion cubs being part of our everyday life, and riding elephants and riding horses and just living in the middle of the bush, it sounds exotic,” says Sarah Graham. “But for us, it was just normal. It was just our everyday life.”
The food-loving writer, cookbook author and TV host grew up on a small wildlife sanctuary run by her parents in Zimbabwe.
And there are wild animals aplenty in Sarah Graham’s Food Safari, as she travels through South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia, meeting local cooks and setting up her mobile kitchen in the wilds (and occasionally, in the bustle of a few of southern Africa’s busy cities).
From the glory of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to the dramatic terrain of the Karoo, Graham visits places she loves, often with her husband and small daughters with her.
The food is a mix of dishes inspired by local traditions and the cooks she meets, and Graham’s own liking for sharing down-to-earth, delicious food.
“The fact that food brings people together for precious moments like these is never lost on me,” she says in the show, after cooking up a feast in for family and friends, “and it’s one of the reasons that I love what I do.”
Here’s a taste of what you can enjoy:
Heading home to Antelope Park
In the first episodes of the show, Graham heads to Antelope Park, the wildlife conservatory in Zimbabwe where she grew up. Along with a visit to the Lion Rehabilitation centre, there’s a lake-side brunch with her Mum and Dad (look out for the chocolatey cinnamon rolls!) and dinner under the stars, where she serves up these venison skewers with red onion, roasted butternut and whipped feta (you can use beef or lamb instead of venison).
Episode 3 sees Graham taking a sunrise walking safari. "Looking out over the savannah and these big skied wide open places, especially when they’re dotted with elephants, is a scene that steals my heart every single time," she says, before cooking up a bush breakfast including quinoa porridge cups, grapefruit and star anise lemonade, and these pumpkin fritters.
There's also some time heading out with her father, and for us watching her learn more about the lion conservation program that runs at Antelope Park. "And I love it when my dad has time to come with me and we can chat about the conservation program and the progress and just get to spend time together in the bush with the lions. ...Walking with the lions and getting out into the bush and into their natural environment with them is something that is almost intoxicatingly special. It's something that leaves you breathless and completely in awe of how majestic they are. They’re such an icon of Africa and I’m always completely aware that it’s a very special privilege to get this window into their lives."
Graham also cooks up a dinner for a group of volunteers, and dessert is this indulgent banana and peanut butter ice cream with cashew brittle. It's a wonderfully rich combination, but the ice-cream is also very quick to make. "When we were growing up we used to have a very simple pudding of mashed bananas and cream and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Today I am making a little more grown-up version ...This almost-instant banana ice-cream is actually one of my Dad's favourites and it's super speedy to make."
Rooibos is a caffeine-free red tea, made from the leaves of a plant native to South Africa. Graham uses it to make a rooibos granita, a refreshing, crunchy red tea, honey and orange iced dessert.
Burgers get a South African twist in the show too, when Graham makes her ostrich burgers with gorgonzola and sticky red onions. "I love ostrich because it’s really lean and it’s proudly South African," she says. (You can also make these with lean beef.)
She also meets with local cooks, from chefs at award-winning restaurants to those cooking at some of the wildlife parks and farms that she visits. There's even a trip to sea - in the opening episode of season two, she heads to Tofo, a seaside town just north of Maputo on the Mozambican coastline. She takes a trip on an Arab-style sailing dhow with local chef Sonia Induna, and meets a local dhow builder, before visiting Sonia's restaurant Tofo Tofo to learn how to make a dish that's a popular menu favourite, crab matapa.
Adventures in Zambia
At Chundu Island Safari Camp, Graham Sarah cooks a meal for her family with the breath-taking Zambezi River as the backdrop, crocodiles and hippos included. " Chundu Island is a tiny little slither of land that’s nestled in the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe... The Zambezi River is an African icon... Being this far into the bush and upriver from the Victoria Falls, you can literally feel the pulse and the heartbeat of the bush. And the whole area is just wild and beautiful and breathtaking. And while it’s exotic and magical to be on the river, you really have to be aware because real dangers are lurking around almost every corner. Particularly crocodiles and hippos." On the menu for her campfire feast are fish frikkadels with pineapple salsa. "Frikkadels ... is an Afrikaans South African word for meat cakes." Most commonly, they are baked or fried meat but in a nod to her river location, Graham makes her version of these spiced patties with fish.
The colour and vibe of Johannesburg
It's time to explore the city side of life in southern Africa. Graham visits Johannesburg Culinary and Pastry School in Maboneng where own and chef Kelvin Jowl shows her how he makes his signature crème brulée, before Graham gets busy making her own dish, crispy gnocchi with watercress pesto. The little potato nuggets are pan-fried after boiling to give them gloriously crisp edges, and then they are tossed with a vibrant watercress pesto.
Still, in Joburg, Graham visits Soweta, the area that was once home to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as the iconic Soweto Cooling Towers. Lunch is at a local shisa nyama restaurant with a variety of meat cooked over the coals. Graham's own menu includes making Amarula malva pudding mugs. Amarula is a creamy South African liqueur. And malva pudding? "Whenever I’m in the mood for really sincere South African comfort food then the pudding path of least resistance always leads me right here to malva pudding. it’s a really sweet, sticky, spongy pudding. Kind of like the cousin of British sticky toffee pudding. it’s of Cape Dutch origin and it is very well-loved in South Africa."
Flavours of Cape Town
Graham spent part of her life in Cape Town, so she knows it's food well. She visits the vibrant South African City several times in her food safari. Among the dishes she cooks are sweet, golden vetkoek. South Africa's vetkoekies ('fat cakes' in Afrikaans) are a fried bread usually filled with savoury mince. But here they're converted to a sweet doughnut ready for dipping into the rich chocolate sauce. Graham explains that while a lot of recipes for vetkoek use yeast, this version is a simpler take, risen with baking powder.
Making memories in Maputo
"It’s a really cosmopolitan African city with a contagious energy," Graham says as she starts her visit to this beautiful city, before she prepares a Mozambican-inspired feast on a rooftop overlooking the city. On the menu are prawn rissoles with sweet chilli dipping sauce. It's a different kind of rissole to what most of us would think of. Rather than a patty, these are golden deep-fried pastries.
Friends and family
Throughout her travels, Graham is either enthusiastically cooking with, or for, her friends and family, from feeding volunteers at a wildlife sanctuary to touring local markets or whipping up meals in the wild, with amazing views. There are plenty of new friends too, with people all along her journey making her welcome and sharing local flavours. It's a food safari that's full of friends and flavour.
And of course there were others interested in what she was doing, too...
Native to South Africa, this tea meaning “red bush” brews up a delicately tangy, revitalising cuppa that’s naturally caffeine free.
Mahamri, also known as Swahili buns or doughnuts, are a sweet cardamom-spiced bread made with coconut milk powder, and are excellent for soaking up curries or just snacking on.
I love the flavours of the spiced lamb kofta paired with garlicky preserved lemon and smoky baba ganoush. I like to add black seaweed pearls for a umami hit and pumpkin seeds tossed in sumac for crunch, but you can leave these out.
This beloved African staple of blood sausage is the equivalent of bangers 'n' mash. Pap is similar to polenta but made from ground maize, while sheba is a rich tomato and onion-based sauce.
Potjie is a South African name for a type of stew cooked in a cast-iron three-legged pot. In Zimbabwe, which is where I am from, we use the same type of cast-iron pot, which we call ‘bhodho’, and we just call the stew a stew - and in this instance goat stew would be ‘nyama yembudzi’. This goat stew is common in Zimbabwe, though each family has its own recipe.
South Africans are renowned for their sweet tooths and many different types of poedings (puddings) feature among their line-up of traditional desserts. This classic vinegar pudding is not nearly as sour as the name would suggest – the vinegar (asyn) in the sugar syrup simply adds a nice balance in flavour and counteracts the intensity of the sweetness.