Preparations are underway in the kitchen at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park as the team busily fills the larder with mouthwatering festive delights. We asked Ludwig von Tonder, our very own Singita Christmas elf, to tell us all about it.
There’s something about the bright red and green colour of strawberries that always reminds me of Christmas. And after the sun has ripened them to ruby perfection, December is the ideal month for making strawberry jam.
If you’re like me and need no excuse to indulge in something sweet, then Sally’s Seed Loaf with homemade strawberry jam is the perfect (almost) guilt-free treat. With the festive season in mind, we have taken the basic recipe and added some cranberries and spices to invoke the spirit of Christmas. Rooibos tea is used instead of water to celebrate our African heritage, while oats, wholewheat and organic rye flour and various seeds combine to make a delicious, fibre-rich loaf that is full of goodness.
Another essential Christmas treat is our homemade fruit mince pies. Generous helpings of raisins, currents and cranberries are cooked together with dark treacle sugar, orange and spices until soft and sticky. The fragrant mixture is then preserved and kept throughout December, always at the ready to be spooned into pastry cases, baked, and showered with icing sugar. These white, powdery mounds filled with their sweet treats remind us that even in Africa we can have some snow for Christmas.
After weeks of preparation, I’m now gratified to see our well-stocked pantry that is bursting with homemade items. Jars of strawberry jam, chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nut rusks, fruit-mince at the ready and our fruitcakes silently awaiting December 25th, only being opened every few days to receive a regular shot of brandy. The days are getting longer and increasingly hotter as we count down to Christmas Day; the excitement building all the while.
For many of our guests, especially those from the Northern Hemisphere, the idea of a warm, sunny Christmas is rather a novelty. And although we don’t have snowflakes and fir trees, the charm of spending this special day in the African bush is undeniable. We asked Ludwig von Tonder, our very own Christmas elf at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park, to take us through the lodge’s preparations leading up to the big day.
As I self-consciously hum Boney M’s White Christmas to get into the spirit of things, I realize that even here, among the thorn trees and rolling grasslands that never see the snow, there is a sense of timeless tradition in our African Christmas.
We prepare for the much-anticipated celebrations of December 25th by polishing the ornaments, dusting the chandeliers and hanging festive decorations. Fruitcakes are being assembled and bejewelled with fresh cherries, the first gift of the season. The fruit is doused with brandy and then used to stud the richly spiced cake which will serve as a delicious tea-time treat well into the new year.
Even here in the relative isolation of the African bush, nature joins in the party by amazing us with the built-in Christmas decorations of the nearby thorn trees. It’s as if the local flora is equally excited for the festive season’s kick-off.
The next few weeks will be filled with the celebration of Christmas traditions from all over the world, as we stockpile the pantries and adorn the lodge with glittering reminders of the spirit of good cheer. Join us throughout December as we share the food, decor and inspiration behind Singita’s uniquely African Christmas.
The Xirombe lion pride – Singita Kruger National Park
Xinkelengane female leopard
A remarkable week of game viewing at Singita Kruger this week. Behind the lens is Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit, who loves every minute of his day introducing the wilderness to guests at Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges.
After three vacation stays at Singita Lebombo Lodge, prominent designer Michael Kors describes Singita’s dramatic retreat remotely situated in the Kruger National Park as his “favourite escape in the world”. Often inspired by his travels, Kors captured the luxe African holiday experience in his new Spring 2012 collection, tempering urban slickness with gauzy textures, leather accessories, utility jackets and rich colours of sand, olive, and cinnamon. Kors describes this new look as “Afri-luxe” boasting the “rustic modernism of Lebombo Lodge” and created for the “new voyager”. This is a look that will be as comfortably worn on a rainy, city street as next to a sleek, infinity pool overlooking beautiful African bush.
Explore the uniqueness of Singita Lebombo Lodge and the wildlife experience at Kruger National Park – read more.
The Singita School of Cooking is located on site at the Staff Village that serves Singita Kruger National Park (Lebombo and Sweni Lodges). It was established with the aim of encouraging the development of culinary skills amongst local youth from our neighbouring communities. Each year, 8 to10 students are selected – based upon clear criteria including showing a real interest in cooking – to participate in an 18 month long training programme.
It was an incredible undertaking initiated by Kurt Abrahams a Senior Sous Chef at Singita Sweni and Jason Trollip the former General Manager of Singita Kruger National Park. Jason and Kurt took up the challenge of taking on young members of the local community who had little or no understanding of what being a chef is all about and training them to the level where they could find employment as skilled trainee chefs at the end of the year long course. Kurt embraced the project wholeheartedly and became the Head of the school sharing his knowledge, exceptional culinary skills and passion for training people. The programme was practical, with the perfect facilities already in existence at the staff village. The first group of students graduated successfully from The Singita School of Cooking (SSC) at the end of 2007.
Year to date the graduating students have all been employed either at a Singita property or by other organisations.
Since opening the SSC has continued to produce well educated, employable trainee chefs and with its reputation now well established we took a decision in 2010 to extend the course to 18 months. The objective now being to take the students to the next level and equip them with Comis Chef level skills, thereby giving them greater earning capability post graduation.
Oriel Mbowane was promoted from Sous Chef Sweni in September to Skills Chef Trainer for the school of cooking. The new course started on 15th September 2010
If you would like more information about sponsoring a Singita School of Cooking student please refer to our Giving Back section on our website.
A wonderful initiative was taken today when our kitchen discovered that we had a young food enthusiast at Singita Lebombo Lodge. Clara, an 11 year old from Texas, was invited into the kitchen to make pizzas and other pastries with Ishal our current pastry chef. From the moment we invited Clara to join the kitchen team she has not stopped smiling.
In the kitchen Ishal taught Clara how to use the various knives, how to make pizza base dough and she chose all of her favourite toppings. Clara also helped prepare lunch for the rest of her family and we hope they enjoyed her fantastic dishes!
Thanks to everyone in the kitchen for making Clara’s day.
Singita Game Reserves – in South Africa – are made up of four beautiful lodges and one extraordinary camp. These four lodges and one camps are situated in two game-rich areas of Southern Africa.
The first area, which is renowned for the best leopard viewing in the world, is known collectively as Singita Sabi Sand. It is home to the Singita Ebony Lodge – which was (if you remember your Singita history) the founding lodge – Singita Boulders Lodge and Singita Castleton Camp.
The second area, located in the far-east reaches of the Kruger Park, is Singita Kruger National Park. Here you will find Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge. The remote wilderness, of Singita Kruger National Park, is well known for its high concentration of lion and its other unique fauna and flora species.