Evoke Africa

Inspired by a Lifelong Love of Africa

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Fri, February 27 2015 » Uncategorized » No Comments

Bobotie

Bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tee) is one of the most controversial dish in South African cuisine. It holds a very dear place in the heart of most South Africans, but once it leaves the shores of the African continent…Well, that’s when the trouble starts.


Bobotie, fresh from the oven…

When I try to describe it to people, concluding with “and it’s delicious!” they never look convinced. Bobotie is a dish comprising of spiced, fruity mincemeat with a savoury custard topping, similar to moussaka…And it’s delicious! See? You don’t believe me. I knew you wouldn’t. And I don’t blame you, either. It doesn’t even look appetising. When a contestant on Masterchef announces that they’re making bobotie, the judges look instantly nauseated. I’ll be honest, it even took me until I was 15 to start tolerating the dish.

But please don’t let any of that put you off. Once my palate was mature enough to handle the flavours, it was only a few years until bobotie made its way into my top 10 dishes, and I’m not alone – it holds a very dear place in the hearts of most South Africans. And it’s not just the Saffa’s – every Brit that I’ve ever introduced to bobotie has loved it. Some of you may recall that I took a couple of British friends to South Africa with me last year, and to my surprise, they ordered bobotie three times in two weeks! I can only conclude that Masterchef contestants have been doing it wrong…

Bobotie has been around since the 1600’s, and recipes can vary enormously – it’s one of those dishes that every family has their own family recipe for! I’m unable to give you my own family’s recipe, as I’m sworn to secrecy…Not to mention the fact that the flavours are pretty intense, which is probably why it took me so long to fall for it! Instead, I’ve put together a recipe that you can easily adjust to suit your personal taste, creating your own family recipe!


Bobotie, yellow rice, and sambals

Serve with yellow rice (recipe below), green vegetables or a salad to cut through the sweetness, and some sambals…Or as you might know them, condiments ;) My preference is for plenty of Mrs Balls, some thinly sliced fresh banana, and finely chopped tomato and onion with a little salt and pepper.

Bobotie – Serves 6

1kg beef mince

3tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

100g raisins

1 heaped tbsp apricot jam

3 heaped tbsp fruit chutney (Mrs Balls would be the South African choice here)

2 slices white bread, crusts removed

240ml milk

4 medium eggs

1 tbsp medium curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

1/2tsp pepper

1 beef stock cube, crumbled and dissolved in a little water

25ml lemon juice

4 bay leaves

Method

Stage 1: Grease an oven-proof dish, and pre-heat the oven to 180?c/Gas Mark 4.

Stage 2: Sauté the onions in the oil over a medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and fry off of a further minute.

Stage 3: Add the mince and fry until lightly browned.

Stage 4: Lower the heat. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, curry powder, chutney, jam, lemon juice and stock. Mix thoroughly.

Stage 5: Soak the bread in the milk for around three minutes. Now for my favourite bit – squeeze milk from the bread and retain the milk for later. Break up the bread and add it to the meat, mixing thoroughly.

Stage 6: Lightly beat two of the eggs and mix into the meat mixture, before spooning it into the oven-proof dish.

Stage 7: Beat the remaining eggs into the retained milk, and pour slowly over the meat. Garnish with the bay leaves. If you are splitting the bobotie between multiple oven dishes, you might need a bit more milk and another egg.

Stage 8: Place in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the custard topping is golden and completely set.

 

Yellow Rice – Serves 6

500g rice (long grained or basmati)

90g raisins

3 tsp turmeric

1 large stick cinnamon

1 ½ tsp salt

2 ½ tbsp light brown sugar

25g butter

Method

Stage 1: Add the rice, raisins, turmeric, cinnamon, sugar and salt to a pan of water, and cook according to the instructions on the packet of rice.

Stage 2: Drain the rice in a colander and remove the cinnamon stick.

Stage 3: Add the butter and mix it through the rice with a fork, fluffing the rice as you go. Serve immediately.

The spicing, chutney and jam are essential if you want to get a good sense of what bobotie is about, but if you’re nervous about the fruit/meat combination, then my suggestion would be to reduce (or even exclude) the raisins and just get used to the basic flavours of the dish.

On the other hand, if you’re up for trying something really different then finely chop a couple of bananas and add them to the meat mixture at Stage 4. While you’re at it, why not add a couple of chopped apples and cook them up with the onions?! Yum!

Other recipes include almonds, coconut, dried apricots, dried apples…The opportunities are endless! I’d love you to get experimenting with bobotie, and if you think that you’ve come up with a version to rival our family recipe then I’d love to hear from you and give it a try!

So come on, wake up those tired old taste buds and give bobotie a go!

Thu, February 7 2013 » Uncategorized » No Comments

Rainbow Food: Part Two

To many, South African cuisine can appear like strange concoctions comprised of ingredients that really don’t belong together. That might be why Heston Blumenthal is such a fan (he talks about it here too)!

There is a dish for every mood: it can be comforting, spicy, fresh, exciting…and it’s constantly evolving. Some of it might appear unusual, but when you look at the history of each dish and understand how it came to be, I do believe that it makes you more open to experiencing the flavours. It only takes a brief look at the history of the country to understand why the cuisine has evolved in the way that it has!

From the seventeenth century onwards, South Africa became home for colonists from Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK. Indonesian and Indian slaves were brought to South Africa during this time, and their culinary style started to meld with the others, leading to the creation of popular Cape Malay dishes which often feature heavy spicing and dried or fresh fruit.

Certain regions of the country reflect these influences more than others – for example the French Hugenots were instrumental in developing the Cape Winelands, and thanks to a large population of Indian South Africans living in and around Durban, the curries in the Eastern Cape have become legendary! More recently, the influence of immigrants from China and Japan, as well as other African countries have also found their place in current food trends. Mix all this with the indigenous love of meat and vegetable dishes, and you start to get an idea of just how varied South African cuisine has become – and how it’s earned it’s reputation as ‘rainbow food’! Combine this with the availability of fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables, game meat and you’ll understand why South Africa has such an amazing culture of food.

Next week, I’ll be starting the food blog off with a popular and often controversial dish, known as bobotie…And I can’t wait to see your reaction to it!

Wed, January 30 2013 » Uncategorized » No Comments

Rainbow Food: Part One

So, another person blogging about food…Boooring! And what even qualifies this Evoke Africa lady to write about food?! Well, nothing special, but I’m going to take a moment to explain why it is that I’m going to do it anyway ;)

Food is one of my great loves. I would go so far as to call myself a foodie, but that brings to mind the sort of person who has a passion for gourmet food…Which I do not. It’s not that I don’t like or appreciate gourmet food. I find it technically impressive, both to eat and to look at. I just find it impersonal, which is the complete opposite of my preferred dining experience.

But my passion is home cooking, baking and street food…Soul food, if you will. It’s the smells wafting from the small independent restaurants, café’s, stalls and bakeries that make my mouth water uncontrollably. You can always find something new there, but in contrast to the food sculptures that one tends to find in a ‘gourmet’ restaurant, the informal, rustic food that you find in these practically begs you to eat it.

It’s a passion that I feed (if you’ll pardon the pun!) most often on my travels around South Africa. As much as my waistline would probably love me to take the ‘eat to live’ approach to food, I do believe that my genetics dictate that my brain and belly would not be satisfied by anything less than a ‘live to eat’ lifestyle! It’s a bit of a joke in my family that our particular brand of travelling can best be referred to as “Tummy Touring” due to the fact that we tend to make our arrangements around which establishments we’d like to eat at that day! Combine our love of food with the fact that we’re usually only in South Africa for a couple of weeks a year, and you have two weeks’ worth of activities already dictated by our taste buds! Having realised this, I make a conscious effort to try and restrict the amount of Tummy Touring that we do to around 50%. The rest of the time, we try to find new favourites to add to the list ;)

Evoke Africa was started because we want to inspire people in the UK to bring a little bit of African sunshine to every part of their lives. The very sight, taste and smell of food is so evocative for most people that an ‘Africa’ blog would be pointless without it. And there’s such a lot to cover; African cuisine is as diverse as the continent it originates from! Probably because it doesn’t just originate from that one country; influences from far and wide have converged to create some incredibly memorable dishes. And that’s why South African cooking is often referred to as Rainbow Food :)

This melting pot of flavours is epitomized in South African cooking, which (given that I grew up on it) will inevitably feature quite heavily in our food blog. Stick around for Part 2 of the blog to find out why it is that you should stick with yet another food blog and bring some Rainbow Food into your life!

Wed, January 23 2013 » Uncategorized » No Comments

New Year, New Blog!

Hi everyone! How is 2013 treating you so far? It feels like we’re the only ones who haven’t got snow at the moment! If you have it, I hope that you’re keeping safe and warm and making the most of the white stuff while it’s around!

As I said in our last post, we’re shaking things up in the blog department! We’ll be giving the entire blog a makeover in due course, but meanwhile (in an attempt to blog more regularly) we’ve decided to set out a few ‘theme days’. It goes something like this;

  • Pick of the Week – Does what it says on the tin! We’ll pick a product that we think deserves a moment in the spotlight and feature it in our blog. There may even be special offers involved from time to time ;)
  • Midweek Treats – You’ve made it halfway through the weekend, so it’s definitely time to treat yourself with something delicious! I’ll be exploring foods and recipes with an African twist, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to try some of it out yourself.
  • Faraway Friday – You know what Fridays are like…They drag by so slowly that you have no choice but to daydream your way to the weekend just so that you make it out of work with your sanity still intact. We’ll add fuel to your Friday fantasies, with pictures and features on African getaways, as well as treasures that we’ve collected on our travels around the continent.

We hope that you’ll enjoy the new themes – they’re just a little bit of fun designed to inspire you to inject a little bit of Africa to all areas of your life! Let us know what you think, and if there are any topics that you’d like us to cover then shout out and let us know!

Tue, January 15 2013 » Uncategorized » No Comments

Farewell to 2012!

Hello friends! I hope that you have all been enjoying the season of goodwill? We had an incredibly busy build up to Christmas this year; when the last orders went out and we had a moment to reflect properly on how the festive season had gone, we found that many more Evoke Africa goodies than anticipated were under trees all over the UK, waiting to be opened on Christmas morning…Such an exciting thought! I hope that everyone out there who bought or opened a gift from us was happy with their little piece of Africa.

As always, Christmas has been and gone just as quickly as it crept up on us, so we now find ourselves reflecting on the year that has passed and looking forward to the one ahead. 2012 has been our first full year of trading, and it’s been brilliant! We’ve learned so much, and we’re really happy to see Evoke Africa moving in the right direction. As usual, we had a fantastic time picking out lots of lovely things for you…But this year we were lucky enough to be able to import some of these gorgeous goodies directly from ethical South African businesses that we have long admired – a massive step for us! We also took our first step towards expanding our product ranges, filling our shelves with a stunning selection of Christmas decorations and cards.

After such an exciting 2012, you may ask what 2013 holds for us? Well the answer sounds quite boring, because it’s basically “more of the same, but better”. The last year and a half has been a big learning curve for us, so we’ll be taking some time to get really damn good at what we’re already doing before we start cracking on with the Next Big Step. So it might sound boring, but being awesome at sharing our stunning African goodies is never going to be dull for us, and here’s why;

  • It means that we will (hopefully) be placing larger and/or more frequent orders with our suppliers, helping to further support the fair trade movement.
  • It means that we can offer you a better variety of jewellery, more special offers and further exploration into a wider selection of products for the home, along with an even better user experience on the website.

Does that sound okay? I do hope so!

So getting really good at this will take a lot of work…But we can worry about that next year. All that’s left for us to do this year, is to thank you for your support throughout 2012 – and to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Mon, December 31 2012 » Uncategorized » No Comments

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

We enjoyed our first dusting of snow here in Surrey yesterday, and as I sat here munching my way through yet another mince pie and processing orders, I realised that I hadn’t introduced you to our latest supplier – the fabulous Streetwires!

I first came across Streetwires just over two years ago, when I traveled to South Africa to visit family. Not an uncommon occurrence (though never common enough for my liking), but this time I had a secret agenda. Creating Evoke Africa was the idea that wouldn’t go away, and this trip was the perfect opportunity to start exploring products and suppliers.

Wire art has always been a particular favourite of mine, and as far as I’m concerned each piece is a work of art. The glinting beads used to decorate the wire frames lead me to think of them less as home accessories and more as ‘jewellery for the home’. It’s easy to find – markets are full of artisans selling these incredible sculptures, each with a different take on the craft. Our house is full of beautiful wire and bead flowers, some of which were created in front of our very eyes! It’s so hard to get hold of indigenous South African flora in the UK, but these everlasting blooms warm my heart.

Streetwires have taken wire art to another level. As a Fair Trade organisation they offer permanent employment to over 60 artists, who pour their creative energy into their incredible hand-made wire creations. Stepping into their little shop in the centre of Cape Town was like stepping into an Aladdin’s cave of wire and bead treasures. I knew from the first glance around the store that I had found what I was looking for – their work was such high quality and so innovative that we just HAD to work with them!

After a year of building up our online presence, we decided that the time had come…Christmas would be the perfect time to introduce Streetwires to our shelves! Their intricately beaded decorations are the best possible introduction to wire art and I’m absolutely thrilled that you, our customers, have embraced this first taster of their products. After all, these are special decorations; little pieces of African art for your family to treasure year after year…Perhaps even an opportunity to discuss fair trading with your little ones as you decorate the tree? A chance to help shape the next generation of ethical consumers! Whatever your reason for buying these amazing decorations, I can’t thank you enough for helping us to realise a dream that began two years ago. I can’t wait to share even more Streetwires goodies with you in 2013!

Thu, December 6 2012 » Uncategorized » No Comments

Umtha Has Landed!

Hello all! We told you last month that we’d be bringing you some fabulous new jewellery lines, and boy have we delivered! We are now very proud stockists of jewellery made by the brilliant artisans at Umtha.

Umtha is based in Cape Town, South Africa, and we’ve had our eye on their beautiful work for quite some time! They are a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and they are committed to creating much-needed employment opportunities to disadvantaged communities, so it’s appropriate that the name ‘Umtha’ is actually a Xhosa word which means ‘ray of light’. They’ve certainly brought a ray of light to Evoke Africa’s virtual shelves! Their  jewellery is innovative, glamorous and very high quality, often featuring unusual materials such as beads made from ostrich eggshell.  You won’t find that on the high street!

We hope that you love Umtha jewellery as much as we do, and we can’t wait to see your reaction to our latest little pieces of Africa!

Tue, November 13 2012 » Uncategorized » No Comments

Autumn is a Second Spring…

I know, I know! It’s nearly November and we didn’t call, we didn’t write…In fact, you’ve barely heard a tweet out of us! Why, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you why!

Autumn.

Like so many of us, I used to dread this time of year. When September arrived, all I could see ahead was months of rain, cold weather and dark days that felt like endless nights. As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty that Autumn brings with it. Albert Camus once said that “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” and I think that’s a beautiful way to describe it. I still see summer there, in every golden leaf and rosy berry.

The beautiful thing about the very distinct seasons that we experience on this little island of ours, is the reminder that all things are cyclical. I wouldn’t say that I actually look forward to Autumn and Winter, and when I take the dog on his daily walk through mud, rain, sleet and hail I will inevitably spend the entirety of that walk wishing that I could hop on the next plane to South Africa…but sometimes we all need a little darkness in our lives in order to truly appreciate the light, don’t you think? So these days, I try to see the start of Autumn as an opportunity for change and reflection before the whirlwind otherwise known as Christmas comes to sweep us all away!

We’ve been doing much reflection, assessing how our year has gone so far and how we would like to continue. 2012 will be our first full year of trading, and we’ve learned so much, so we’re taking those lessons and making the changes that will help us to grow better and stronger. We’ve spent late summer and Autumn making improvements to the website, arranging new suppliers, and making the plans for bit of a blog and social network overhaul! This has meant a lot of hard work for us, leading to a better customer experience for you, and a glowy feeling inside for us all as we play a bigger and more active part in the fair trade movement!
We’re so excited about our new suppliers and products! We’ve been working non-stop to process the orders that they’ve sent us, and they will be on the website this weekend! I’ll let you into a little secret; our new jewellery is absolutely stunning, gorgeous and just plain beautiful. To be honest with you, I kind of want to keep it all for myself. But that would be selfish and that’s not what fair trade is about, so I guess I’ll just have to spread the love :)

We also have a little bit of a surprise for our customers this Christmas – some very special products are on their way to us from Cape Town, South Africa as we speak! I picked these out especially when I was last there, and I’m just thrilled that we’re going to be able to share them with you because I’m head over heels for them. I expect that you’ll hear the squeals of excitement from our office when they arrive! I’m dying to share the secret with you…But you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. Trust me, they’re worth it!

In short, we’ve got some brilliant new suppliers and a ton of beautiful new products to share with you – you’re going to LOVE them!

Fri, October 26 2012 » Uncategorized » No Comments

August Update

Can you believe it’s August already? I feel like I’m still waiting for summer to arrive, yet the shops have suddenly filled up with their Autumn/Winter stock. We’re making our first tentative preparations for Christmas, which is both exciting and bizarre – in my personal life I try to avoid thinking about Christmas until strictly necessary! But the best part of Christmas is picking out presents for your loved ones, and it’s the same feeling that I get whenever I start picking out new stock. It gives me warm fuzzy feelings knowing that the jewellery we hand-pick for you, will chosen by you for your loved ones!

Weather aside, we’ve been having a wonderful summer with more and more lovely people discovering the joys of ethically traded African jewellery. This is brilliant – and not only for us! It means that we’re at a point where we can start to consider placing orders with even more businesses, so we’ll be helping to support the fair trade movement even more – and bringing in a wider variety of beautiful jewellery for you! Isn’t it nice to be part of a process where everbody wins for once?!

On a personal level, we’ve recently welcomed a new member to the Evoke family – our little Standard Schnauzer Jarvis! At 10 weeks old, he’s responsible for two weeks of sleepless nights and manic days! He’s interested in everything, so I can tell that he’s going to enjoy helping us unpack our orders and sending off yours :) He’s settled in exceptionally well and now that we’ve got our little routine going, my frazzled brain might be able to focus enough to write a few more blogs!

Speaking of which, from September we’ll be introducing a few themed blogs each week. Hopefully this will keep things interesting for you, as well as introducing a bit of structure for me; turns it’s not just dogs who need routine! Expect lots of photos, food and fairly traded goodies – with a good does of all other things African for good measure.

Finally, our Summer Sale is in full swing now. As well as the gorgeous summer brights, there are so many transition pieces of jewellery on offer that will see you right through winter…More on that later! If you haven’t already, go and have a little peek and see what bargains catch your eye!

Wed, August 8 2012 » Uncategorized » No Comments