Friday, December 4, 2015

Uuni means Oven....but more importantly it means GREAT PIZZA!

I'm going to ignore the fact that I have not posted a singe thing since last February!  Life is happening the "speed of life" and pausing to post just hasn't been in the cards.  I got hung up by computer problems and then got bogged down with wanting to properly process photos from our Parents and Brother's and Niece's most amazing visits....but clearly this is not happening.  We have three new computers in the house, all new operating systems and photo software that I remain uncomfortable with but that I PROMISE to get to know intimately so I can carry on.
"What's that you say? You are going to actually learn your new editing program?" 
So for now let's forget the amazing adventures, the wildlife encounters of which there have been many (exciting, frightening, harrowing, unbelievable) the many sporting accolades from the progeny, the antics from the pets, great parties and good fun we've been having at the case, the surprise visit to seattle (again, apologies to everyone for that -- it was an unexpected visit for us too!) and just dive back in with a post about FOOD.  My favorite topic.

No post about food today goes without a note about the complications we are facing regarding acquiring, storing and preparing food.  Zambia is experiencing some unwelcome excitement as of late -- has the dubious distinction of having the world WORST PERFORMING currency and an economy which is limping along due mainly to it's dependence on copper, the price of this raw commodity (is copper technically a 'commodity?" or is it a resource?) AND are newly suffering from Zambia's dependence on three small hydroelectric projects which are meant to 'power the nation' but which are operating at such dismally low levels that we are having power cuts/load-shedding 8-16 hours per day. Every day.  Since....June?  Every single day.  IT's a total drag.  There are only two nights per week where the power is back on in time to fix dinner at and eat with the lights on.  Otherwise we use solar lights, candles and our gas camping stove five nights a week.

the sunset view from our place.  the presence of the power lines is ironic.
This is fine when you are camping but really not fine when you are living like you are camping at home.  There is nothing "STAYCATION" about this.  It's NOT charming in any way, shape or form.  In fact, we found that if we actually GO camping, we are better equipped and organized.  I'll mention quickly that  to complicate things, our kitchen is presently being demolished and the collection of water pumps which supply our house with running water are broken so we don't even have a sink or running water presently.

outdoor kitchen
This is temporary, but like "one-month-temporary"not "well have this up and running tomorrow" temporary.  Yes we are hauling water from the swimming pool for baths and heating up pots of water to wash dishes in buckets.  And Yes, again, it's very Marie-Antoinette of us to say we must use the water from the 75,000 liter swimming pool because the taps are dry. The irony is not lost on me.  But man-oh-man would I love a hot shower right about now.)

When we came to Seattle for the summer break we had only a hint of what we would be coming back to in August.  To make a very long story short, I had an inkling that something to ease the 'pain' of no electricity would be to have a pizza oven.  Yes, this is VERY Marie Antoinette of me, very FWP (first world problem) and it seems silly.  However, I had been tracking two small startups, one in Finland and one in Zambia.  For my plan to work, I needed them both to 'take off.'  What was the plan?  Convince my family that we needed to spend what could have been silly amount of money on a 'portable pizza oven' that honestly looked all the world like the Easy-Bake Oven my best friend Janna had when we were know the kind with the incandescent bulb as the 'heating element' and the little tiny cake pans that could cook up a little tiny cake in 5 minutes?   It looks every bit like an award-winning Scandinavian-designed portable oven.  Because...IT IS!

So, the success of the pizza oven start up was one element but the other KEY element was the success of a company in Zambia which was proposing efficient energy solutions in the way of using waste from the timber mills to produce wood-pellets for cooking stoves.  The wood-pellets are sold as 'Clean Malasha" or clean-charcoal and are meant to replace the mainstay of Zambian household fuels, Charcoal.  The company and a second new offshoot company are well on their way and we have a readily availablee supply of these wood pellets.  The woodpellets are also required to fuel our brilliant little pizza oven!  YEAH!

Uuni + SupaMoto = SUCCESS!
In my little world the marriage of "Emerging Cooking Solutions" SupaMoto Clean Malasha and the Uuni 2 is a match made in heaven.  Now we face the problem of mozzarella sourcing. Nice cheese is not one of Africa's "Big Five" (Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard and Rhino) but I propose that we shift Rhino over to the Protected and Endangered species list (remove it from the big game hunting list) and add CHEESE to Africa's Big Five.

hunting for pizza
The last thing I will say is that we thought ordered the oven in plenty of time to bring it back to Zambia with us but in fact it arrived after we left.  A wonderful pizza-loving friend who had a chance-visit to the Emerald City brought it back for us IN HIS SUITCASE.  Usually Pizza-Oven and Suitcase are not two things that go together and I"m certain TSA thought the very same thing as they scanned that black bag but...the selling point of this pizza oven is that unlike the others I looked at and the ones I considered building this sweet little things weighs 10kgs BOXED.  That's 22 pounds.  That's well-under the 23kg baggage weight limit.  This is just slightly less than the other one I was swooning over - it weighed-in at 270 pounds. I'd love to know the "overweight" charges on that.

i could not contain the awesomeness of the uuni in the photo-frame.
I'm CERTAIN the only reason you are still reading is to find out how the pizza was.  GREAT.  It 'performs' brilliantly.  Any faults have been the result of human error / failures of the baker/pizzalo and not the uuni.  It bakes up pizzas in no time flat.  Their crust recipe is amazing the Passata based sauce recipe is great and easy.  IF we could chill out and just have normal pizza toppings we could have the oven, sauce and dough ready in 20 minutes.  "we" cannot however, just make a simple pizza so I spend as much time as I have on pizza nights shredding salami and hunting down the sunflower seeds (a surprise favorite topping) making fresh ricotta, chopping herbs, washing greens, soaking sundried tomatoes, chopping veggies and spooning out pesto and white sauce for the line-cooks.

pikani pizzera is open for business.
At the present, we take local and international reservations at the pikani pop-up pizzeria.  We recommend routing your flight thru Amsterdam or Dubai.  Do not eat at the Dubai airport no matter how hungry you are; you WILL regret it. Please BYOC* when-ever possible. But please come.

(bring your own cheese / candles - or bring me some nice rennet and we can try to make the mozzarella)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Coffee Break! The Zambia Barista Championship 2014.

We returned from Tsika in time to catch the Barista Championship.  It's fair to say that I was chuffed/thrilled/nearly undone to have done the logo and branding for the event and to see it all up and looking -- I think-- lovely. It was a fun project and we'll get to recycle a lot of the artwork for next year (this was the idea - to create a whole event look, keep things clean and simple, and make an event brand that could carry on from year to year).

The competition set up was great and the level of competition only gets better each year. Big Kudos to the barisats and their sponsors for continuing to support the competition. This is the 9th year for Zambia to host a national competition.  Alan got to participate as a sensory judge in the early rounds, and the Grandparents got to see the thing unfold from start to finish. I begged out of judging and was photographer instead.  I can't handle that much coffee, so make a pretty useless judge.

Whether you are into this sort of thing or not, the details of the competition are amazing!  The Zambia competition is set up to be just like the world competition from the scoring and requirements of the baristas to the equipment, the 'stage' and even the addition of a proper performance setting.  We had our favorite Emcee, Chi, on the mic and a DJ on the soundboard, so the competition was...uh, what do the kids say?  "Tight."  yeah, the barista competition was tight.  Right on.

(The only problem was that Chi was sporting his beard so was not his normal adorable self....something about not shaving until Liverpool won some hardware? What was he thinking?  He's back to cleanshaven and Liverpool is without a trophy, so you make your own call on this guy if he's REALLY supporting his team or what. I'm teasing, of course. At least he pulled out the custom tailored suit.  Nice threads, buddy.)

If you didn't catch last years' post, the deets are like this:

Three drinks each for four sensory judges in 15 minutes:  espresso, cappuccino, signature beverage. Clean station; clear, factual and entertaining presentation; perfect 'pulls'; and no room for error.  The winner gets a round trip ticket to the week long World Championships event in Italy and a massive trophy and of course the TITLE of 2014 Barista Champion for the Republic of Zambia.  There are the 4 sensory judges, a head judge (from Italy this year), a technical judge and...another judge with a different title...are there more judges?  I have no idea.  Like I say, I steer clear of judging.

 AND THE WINNERS ARE...Elijiah from Marika's/Munali (3rd) Emmeldah from Blue Moon Cafe (2nd) and Dailas!  (also Blue Moon Cafe!)  Nice going. Dailas...lost her voice on the day of the finals but she did NOT lose her touch.  Can't wait for 2015.

A boy and his dog

These two are good friends.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Easter at Kasanka


This trip was so cool that I wanted to give it it's post and it's own separate collection of photos.  I can't believe I have not posted these yet!

We've been to Kasanka before during the bat migration.  Every November and December (at the beginning of Zambia's rainy season) some five million of the continents largest fruit bats come from all over to roost on one hectare of Kasanka's wooded wetland -- it was a long drive in very hot and rainy weather, we were self-catering & tent-camping. We enjoyed the time there -- the bat experience was unbelievable -- but it really was not the most relaxing or chill trip.  When the idea came up to spend Easter weekend there with the family in April for birding, it was not an easy sell:  7 hours in one car.  With 7 people.

Right there you have a big huge red flag saying "THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA".

But. .. what about 12 people in two planes for 55 minutes?  NOW we're talking.

We hatched a fairly last minute plan - our friends have an air charter service and had two planes available.  The main lodge only had the French ambassador booked and we could stay at an outlying camp to keep out of her way and basically have the place to ourselves.  The other family with the planes.... their boys are good friends with ours and were home from boarding school.

Oh, and they all used to live at Kasanka.  The boys grew up there and know the lodge, the staff, the bush like the backs of their hands.  We would basically have everything we needed organised for us and everyone at our disposal for guided walks, fishing, canoing, birding, sitatunga-stalking.  SOLD.

As a bonus, the Kasanka Trust has a world reknown ornithologist on staff would could take Hugh (and any other willing birders) birding around Kananka and, if we were up for it, out to Bangweulu to track down some Shoebills.  For Hugh, this was an opportunity NOT to be missed.

Separate plugs means that the kids can talk to eachother but that we can shut off their mics.  This is key to happy flying with a gang of boys who would like to spend the entire flight singing and burping.

Leaving Lusaka

This was the view for most of the flight.  (Minus the grey spots.  That was my sensor before it was cleaned. Thank goodness I have a friend here who I trust with my gear and he sorted that out for when we came back. I had put off bringing the camera into him because I was worried I had really done it in and damaged the guts of the camera (it is ABUSED) and really could not have bore that news.)

Swamp swamp, crocs, hippos, stream, and swamp.

Pilot and Co-Pilot

Wasa Lake and Wasa lodge (the round building is the main lodge/reception)

The airstrip at Wasa... with "the Landy" waiting for us.

The kids (except the baby) and Alan took one plane, the parents took the other.  

Alan, strategizing how to pick the non-wacko kid vehicle.

Tsetse forest.... with wildlife come Tsetse and biting flies.


TROUBLE x 4:  Dom, Finn, O and James.  The boys has a separate agenda from ours.  Theirs involved fishing.  They caught a LOT of stones and not a lot of fish.  They really did not care too much. They were happy to catch anything.

And shooting. They shot at targets and tin cans.

They also had babysitting duties, although I bet it was more the case that TomTom took care of them.  Look at this guy!! He's ALL BUSINESS!

The clowns, meanwhile...

Miracle of miracles, the "ee-see bunny" found us all the way out at Luwombwa Camp!  But the chocolates and eggs were hidden in the craziest places!

A beautiful Easter Breakfast on the banks of the Luwombwa River.

Are these two related?  Todd and his mom, Bev.  

Frank Took us out for a night drive in the truck.  we stopped a few meters ahead and looked up an there was an owl RIGHT ABOVE US.  We could have touched it, it was so close!  no one managed to get a photo but it was one of those WOW safari moments.  Super cool.

craziness with my f stop.

One of the main hides for animal viewing...we climbed up close to sunset.

At my favourite spot, standing on top of a truck.  We were looking for a swamp dwelling antelope called a Sitatunga.  They are shy creatures.  We were also looking for shoebills just in case some had wandered back into Kasanaka NP.  (below:  Todd NOT following the rules of staying by the vehicle.  I think he was flanked by Edmond with his pistol b/c they went to go check out a MASSIVE croc.

Team Jennings!