Situated on a remote island close to the Okavanga Delta, Little Vrumba camp Botswana is a magical place. My husband and I stayed in one of six stand-alone tented rooms that featured an indoor and outdoor shower along with a private deck that overlooked the Savannah. Each morning we were awakened at 5:30 am and 30 minutes later “continental” breakfast was served. Soon after we began our day we listened to the rustling of the family of baboons that made themselves at home on the wooden walkway that led from our quarters to the open air dining hall. We would hear them scattering about – likely keyed up by the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen. The breakfast served each morning exceeded my expectations of pastry, juice and coffee. There was a self-serve buffet with hot and cold cereals, juices, fruit salad, toast, muffins and sweet breads, coffee, tea, and even eggs and meats upon request. I thought I had died and gone to heaven!
By 6:00am, following our hearty breakfast, we were ready for a game drive or walk. Our trusty guide Gordon was excellent at tracking elephant, leopard, lion, and numerous birds. He would see a footprint in the sand and identify which animal was passing through. Gordon could immediately detect which direction they were headed and never failed to lead us to the animal itself! After hours of tracking we took a break during the heat of the early afternoon and when it started to cool down we departed again for an evening game drive, stopping at sundown for drinks and appetizers. We continued “off road” to search for animals in the dark with an infrared spotlight until 7:30 when the Land Rovers returned to camp so we might freshen up for our 8:00pm dinner with the other visitors. The 12 or so guests engaged in lively conversations during the meal and compared notes about what we had seen that day!
Throughout our stay, I found my focus returning to the camp’s kitchen. During our down time we enjoyed a brunch featuring an array of salads, omelets, hot dishes, cheeses, and exotic fruits. Only a few hours later, following a restfult nap, we prepared for high tea and the table was laden with choices of sweet and savory foods to enjoy.
Though I was enamored of all the wonderful food, I was even more charmed by the camp manager Alice and her kitchen staff. These women produced the most delicious dishes – everything from crème caramel and fresh baked breads to liver pate and wonderful meat dishes. They allowed me to observe them cooking, singing and enjoying their work. At one point I started taking pictures and they got so excited they started to vamp for the camera. When I got back to the states I printed out all the photos and sent them back to my new friends.
One recipe Alice shared with me was “jungle oats.” I grew up eating oatmeal that my mom prepared with water, a little butter, salt and milk, so I was used to a savory version of the dish. I usually do not like sweet cereals, but my special, early morning indulgence of jungle oats quickly became a new favorite. The camp cooks couldn’t give me an exact recipe but described to me how this was made. When I got home I tested a few versions and came up with a pretty close rendition. While it’s not the same as eating while gazing at the savannah, enjoying these jungle oats never fails to remind me of my time in Botswana. It has become my standard weekday breakfast. Just a half-cup serving of these healthy whole grains with a little milk keeps me satiated for several hours!
- 1/2 cup nonfat or regular dried milk (I could have used regular milk, but since the bush camp used powdered I figured I wanted to be authentic)
- 3 cups cold water
- 1 ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup golden or dark raisins
- Dash of salt
- 1 tsp turbinado sugar or brown sugar
Whisk together water and powdered milk until no lumps remain. Pour mixture into heavy sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in oats, raisins, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Simmer on low for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and cover. Let rest for 5 minutes.
This is enough for a few days so I refrigerate the leftovers and simply reheat my Jungle Oats, adding more milk or water if it is too thick for the next couple of mornings.
Variations: I often top this with about ¼ cup of homemade granola and chopped apples. This would be great with diced dried apricots, or cut up dates or diced figs in place of the raisins. If you prefer, use a bit of maple syrup, honey or agave syrup in place of the sugar. I have also made the hot cereal substituting Bob’s Red Mill 8-grain cereal for the oats. I’ve tried toasting the oats before cooking, which gives them an earthy, nutty flavor. Inspired by another safari camp, I have even substituted coconut milk for half of the milk and the taste was subtle and exotic.
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