Sunday, March 29, 2009

African Night

Amazingly it's been more than a year since our last "safari" night on the street - Bollywood night - but there are good reasons for that. Anyway, despite agreeing to organise the next one, and originally saying it would be Greek night, we decided in the end that there would be more room for culinary manoeuvre if we chose the entire African continent as a theme, and so African Night was born.

Even though there are umpteen African countries to choose from, costumes displayed a marked lack of imagination, with pith helmets and khakis being the norm for the chaps while a variety of animal attire (zebras and large cats mainly) seemed de rigeur for the chapesses. One or two enterprising souls had gone for some kind of colourful tent, but there was nothing approaching the splendour of the Indian garb from last time.

We began our safari across the road with some delicious piri-piri chicken, falafel, some kind of cured meat, and a huge pile of tuna samosas, along with "Safari" cider. Back to our side but further down for a selection of mezzes and a delicious orangey drink concoction whose name escapes me, before moving on to ours for bobotie and African Violets. As soon as we decided the theme for tonight, I knew I'd be cooking bobotie. I haven't had it for 25+ years but back then it was an old favourite. I had thought it originated in Kenya, but that's just where the person who introduced ME to it came from. A quick Google for the recipe revealed it to be a traditional South African dish (and before that, Dutch), which gave me a brief pause as one of our neighbours hails from SA and I knew I'd be feeding it to an expert.

In the end, I found three recipes, so I based the dish on this one, but added in little somethings from the other two as well as putting my own slant on it. I also made it with Quorn mince rather than beef, as we have at least two vegetarians on the street. The end result looked exactly as I remember it, and was greeted with much praise, especially from Keith, who declared it to be "just right." For me though, the highlight of our stop was the African Violet.

It's becoming something of a tradition on safari nights to have cocktails at our place, so I was delighted to find this recipe for a stunning-looking shot, comprising layered white crème de cacao liqueur, blue curaçao, and whisky. A little tricky to make - I cocked the first one up royally and just had to dispose of it in the only way possible - but once I'd had a bit of practice and steadied my hand, the layering turned out just right. I'd slipped home half-an-hour before the guests were due to give me chance to add the eggy topping to the bobotie and prepare a dozen African Violets, which went down really well. I ended up making another dozen!

Then it was on to #19, where the lads had made a variety of deliciously spicy stuffings for some traditional deep-fried dumplings, #16 where we were treated to dessert - a choice of tropical fruits, or bananas with toffee crunch sauce, or marvel cake (or something) which was spongy, treacly goodness in a small package. Fab! By this time, of course, we were all creaking at the seams, so we were glad our organisation had decided to have food at only 5 houses. The last stop was for drinks only, but we did end up staying until 4am!

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