Towards the end of last year, we kicked off a series of profiles on some of the members of our team. These #SingitaStories introduced blog readers to the amazing women who run Singita Sweni Lodge, an ex-poacher who became a pastry chef and one of the most respected wildlife trackers in the world.
The first in this series was the story of Michael Matera, then Senior Sous Chef at Singita Sasakwa Lodge. Michael worked his way up from the position of Grounds Attendant at Singita Sabora Tented Camp to assisting in the staff kitchen, where he learned the basic cooking skills that would set him up for a career as a chef. After many long hours at the stove, lots of extra lessons and taking an English course to improve his language competency, Michael was promoted to the main guest kitchen. He flourished here and was subsequently named Tanzanian Chef of the Year, and Senior Sous Chef under Executive Chef, Frank Louw.
Michael Matera and Frank Louw
We are very proud to report that Michael continues to be an asset to the team at Singita Grumeti. After another year of hard work and dedication, he was recently promoted to the role of Chef at Singita Sabora Tented Camp. This is especially significant as Michael is the first Tanzanian to hold this position, and as Frank remarks, “makes him an inspiration to so many other young Tanzanians wanting to make a change in their lives.”
Michael’s experiences have inspired him to pass on the knowledge and enthusiasm he has developed for cooking over the past ten years. He says: “Training is my passion. I love seeing staff growing in front of me and knowing that I had a small contribution to their new future”. This philanthropic attitude is a striking reminder of one of Singita’s core principles; to make a tangible difference in the lives of the people living and working in and around its lodges.
Michael Matera and his kitchen team at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania
Warm congratulations to Michael for this wonderful achievement! We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on his progress at the lodge. You can read all the “People of Singita” blog posts here, and also watch the #SingitaStories videos on our Vimeo channel.
The Serengeti is a vast and precious wilderness, spanning 12 000 square miles of seemingly endless grassland. The Great Migration makes its way across these plains, passing through Singita Grumeti, a private wildlife reserve established to protect the indigenous biodiversity of this important ecosystem.
Singita Sabora Tented Camp is one of five Singita properties in the reserve and is designed as a nostalgic, 1920s-style explorer’s camp. The accommodation is full of character, offering a surprisingly luxurious and enchanting safari in the rugged terrain of the surrounding savannah. The elegant simplicity and laid-back romance of the camp is apparent in every moment of our guest’s experience, including meal times which often take place in the open.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of being seated at a dining table in the shade of an acacia tree in the middle of the Serengeti. The whir of nearby grasshoppers vibrates in the air as the sun rises through the African sky, and you’re handed a cooling glass of homemade iced tea while a herd of zebra casually graze in the distance. Executive Chef, Frank Louw, and his team help to make such moments at Singita Grumeti possible and here he shares a popular recipe for banana and date loaf.
BANANA AND DATE LOAF RECIPE
Ingredients – what you’ll need:
2 cups (300g) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g pitted dates, chopped (substitute with dark chocolate if you like)
1/2 cup (115g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 cup mashed banana (about 2 large, or three small)
80g cinnamon sugar (optional)
Butter, to serve (optional)
Method – what to do:
Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 24 x 13.5cm loaf pan with non-stick baking paper.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and nutmeg into a large bowl.
Stir through the dates and sugar.
Combine the milk, eggs and banana in a separate bowl.
Fold into the date mixture until well combined and pour into the loaf pan.
Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Slice and serve with butter if desired.
Check back soon for more snapshots of al fresco dining at Singita’s lodges and camps. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.
Singita Grumeti Kitchen Tales – by Frank Louw, Sasakwa Chef
Summer is still in the air and with all the seasonal produce surrounding us it is only natural to go “fruity”. Mango is one of my favourite fruits and is so versatile. Instead of using it only in desserts or cocktails, try using it in salads or as a salsa with seafood. This is one of my all-time outstanding recipes and I use it often. Great with grilled lobster, slow braised pork belly or roasted chicken.
Mango and Spring Onion Salsa
2 Ripe medium mangos
1 Small bunch of spring onions
1 punnet (200g) cherry tomatoes
Half bunch mint
Half small chilli
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 2 limes
1 cm ginger stem
50ml sesame oil
50ml olive oil
(For help with measurement conversions, take a look at http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/cooking-conversions/conversions.aspx)
Cut the mango and tomato into cubes, roughly the same size. If you prefer to deseed the tomato do so at this stage. Slice the spring onion as thinly as possible. Chop the mint, coriander, ginger and chilli very finely and add to the mango mixture. Add the lemon juice, sesame oil and olive oil into a small bowl, whisk well and add to the mango salsa. Place in the fridge for an hour and serve with your grilled lobster…
For more information about our Singita Grumeti Lodges, you may want to read more on our website.
Singita Grumeti Kitchen Tales
The greenhouse has been a long standing project here at Singita Grumeti Reserves, so much so that it seemed like it was always going to be a dream.
This year with the efforts of Frank Louw (Head chef), Sasakwa chefs and a team of gardeners, the greenhouse has become a much longed for reality. A few months ago a buzz began around the greenhouse and on closer inspection you would have noticed plastic buckets, containers, rakes, spades and all sorts of useful apparel arriving. Containers were moved into rows, holes made, loose stones placed for drainage and covered with top soil, and the essential water source found. Packets of seeds were secreted down and enthusiastically sown. Beds of soil were tentatively watered, constantly hovered over, and if will power alone could inspire growth the garden would have been blooming in a matter of hours.
Time seemed to stretch on and as all eyes focused on the brown earth, small dots of green finally flecked the soil. These minute green specks slowly unfurled and as each day passed the new seedlings distinguished themselves and soon basil shoots, fragrant coriander, delicate dill, miniature carrot tops, lettuce leaves, tomato vines, radish sprouts and baby spinach leaves were all recognizable. Now we are able to pick our own selection of herbs and vegetables to use in the kitchen – our dream come true.
Article contribution by Catherine, Sasakwa Sous Chef, Singita Grumeti Kitchens