Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Into Africa, Part 4: Lions and Leopards and Rhinos [oh my!]
What’s cooking? Cheese Muffins

As much as I enjoyed Cape Town and the wine country and the rail trip to Pretoria/Jo’burg, it was all a buildup to the last five days, which we spent in the bush.

Our home for those five days, Notten’s Bush Camp, is a delightful private game lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve. The camp itself comprises a single large building, with a deck, where the meals are served; two or three smaller buildings which house the kitchen, offices, and quarters for the people running the camp; a swimming pool; and eight guest cabins. The best part is that while there are ceiling fans in each cabin, and the main buildings have the obvious electrification needed for cooking and storing food, the entire camp is lit at night by candles and paraffin lamps only. Returning each day from the evening game drive, we were greeted by a romantic fairyland of twinkling lights.

Sabi Sand is the oldest of the private reserves, covering over 150,000 acres of savannah thornveld. Because it’s part of Greater Kruger National Park, there are no fences between Kruger and Sabi Sand, so the animals move freely throughout. And while the Land Rovers have to stay on the roads in Kruger, we had no such restrictions in Sabi. If we saw giraffes “way over there,” our driver simply turned off the road and drove up to where than animals were. As a result, we managed magnificent sightings of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, water buffalo) and got up close and personal with many others, including hippo, hyena, impala, wildebeest, and many exotic birds. Imagine leaning over the side of your open-top Land Rover, looking down at the ground, and through the grass, you see something...

Can you see her? This is camouflage.   
As long as you stay in the vehicle, the animals barely seem to notice you. Here's a better picture of her when she came out into the open. .

So those are two of the Big Five. Here are the others:

Hard to tell, but there are three water buffalo resting here. I loved this scene.

 Other friendly creatures, from the elegant to the truly ugly.

And finally, a few funny little critters:

 Each day, we were awakened at 5a.m. for coffee/tea/cocoa and biscotti before the three-hour game ride, which also includes a coffee break. We’d return to a huge breakfast buffet, then have until 3p.m. when high tea (a lunch equivalent, with salads, homemade pizza, quiche, paté, and cakes, etc.) was served. Then the evening bush drive followed by an amazing dinner under the stars. I would go back tomorrow.

What I Learned in Africa

• The elephants eat the bark off a tree.
• The tree, without the bark to carry water to its leaves, dies.
• The termite ants eat the dead tree, in the process building a huge mound for their hive.

• The aardvark, searching for food, finds the mound, and burrows into it with his snout. This burrowing creates a small cave of sorts.
• Once the aardvark has eaten all the ants, he moves on, and the empty mound becomes a place where mongooses, hyenas, and even leopards hide their babies to keep them safe.
• The cleanliness and health of the soil left by the termite ants makes it not only good for the baby animals, but also promotes the grasses to grow on top of the mound.

Nothing is wasted. Everything has meaning and use.

* * *

One of the great morning treats at Notten’s was the cheese muffins. And it turns out they are remarkably easy to make.

Notten’s Cheese Muffins
(makes 6 large muffins)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1½ cups milk

2 cups grated cheese (a good cheddar works well)

sunflower seeds

Grease a muffin tin and heat oven to 350°.

Sift together the flour, salt, mustard powder, baking powder, and cayenne pepper, and set aside.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg with the oil and milk. Stir in the cheese. Add the liquid mixture all at once to the flour mixture, and stir gently until just combined.

Pour the dough into the muffin tin, filling each cup only half full, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.

Kitchen Goddess note: I made two batches of this recipe, using a basic tin muffin pan on one and a dark non-stick pan on the other. You get much better results with the basic tin muffin pan, as the non-stick coating makes the sides to the muffins get unattractively dark before the muffins are done.


  1. These sound much easier and just as good as the cheddar bread I made recently.

  2. These sound much easier and equally as good as the cheddar bread I made recently.

    1. They really were easy AND good. But cheddar bread also sounds yummy.