Elewana’s Executive Chef Nicky Bryden, returns to the Elewana Camps this month to help curate the delicious menus on offer at the properties. We spoke to Nicky about her work and plans for the Elewana Kitchens.
What are you most looking forward to on returning to the Elewana properties?
After having gone through many months of lockdown and experiencing various degrees of isolation, there is much I am looking forward to but most certainly right at the top is connecting with the teams once again. They have all been through a very rough year and there is nothing quite like cooking and having some fun learning new skills and tricks to uplift the spirits once again. I am also missing the serenity that comes with being out in the African bush. 2020 has afforded us all an opportunity to have a careful look inward at what is important to us and for me, connecting with nature, observing my surroundings and learning from people that live in it, is what inspires and challenges me.
What are your key tips for a good safari menu?
My personal tips would be that no two menus are the same, most of our guests spend time at two or more of our lodges and each of the lodges is situated in unique surroundings and the menus represent this and will change daily.
We always strive for a sense of authenticity and an element of surprise. From a sunrise breakfast in the bush to an impromptu barbecue under the stars, I want there to always be a hint of theatrics and wonderment.
Are there any particular new dishes that you will be looking to introduce at the Elewana camps?
We are introducing new dishes constantly, however I am personally looking forward to introducing new menus that cater for a wider variety of palettes. I especially want to focus on using more locally sourced products and delve into the amazing array of flavourings, spices and unique cooking methods we have here in East Africa.
What is your favourite local ingredient that you have discovered and added to the menus?
My personal favourite is tamarind, it is indigenous to tropical Africa. The tamarind tree produces brown, pod-like fruits that contain a sweet, tangy pulp, which when added to dishes adds an acidy that compliments so many of our Kenyan dishes. I love it, as we can harvest it ourselves and are able to use the fruit as well as the leaves in our cooking. It is also very versatile and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and has plenty of Vitamin C to keep immune systems healthy.
Have you learnt anything surprising from the local staff that you have been training?
In kitchens, there is something new we learn every day and over the years I have learnt much from the teams I work with. On the coast, I have learnt how to extract milk from the coconut by hand and how to cook a fish using only a few sticks. I have learnt how to use every part of an animal and leave nothing to waste and how most plants we find surrounding us, have in some way a use and benefit to us. I’ve also learnt how to behave in a local market and the importance of banter and barter in the local lingo to get the quality and price you need.
For people, unable to travel can you recommend how to recreate a bush meal experience?
I think the beauty about ‘Bush Meals’ is that they afford us the opportunity to take in and appreciate one’s surroundings; it doesn’t mean you need to travel half way across the world to do it. One can recreate the bush concept by incorporating the use of fire which provides some great outdoor ambience. I would choose to prepare something interactive and a great choice would be the Kenyan Mishkaki, we cook these at our Loisaba Starbeds property and they are always a great hit.
They are meat kebabs which have been seasoned with local East African spices, (there is a recipe below). Let everyone get involved with the cooking and enjoy your favourite tipple while watching the sun go down in your backyard.
What’s your favourite dining spot of the Elewana Camps that you have visited?
Wow, this is a hard question as they all are very unique and special; however, I think I would need to say outdoors at Elewana Sand River Masai Mara. There is something to be said about enjoying your meal listening to the chorus of the wild and there is no better place for that than the Mara with the constant song from the hyenas, wildebeest and lions, it’s extraordinary.