Her passion for Africa, its people and its food, her beaming smile and her sheer zest for life are all things that make you want to spend time with celebrity chef Callie-Anne Gavazzi. In honour of heritage day and national ‘braai day’ this month, we spent some time chatting to this bona fide North Coast ‘bush girl’.
It’s not easy pinning Callie down. In fact, at the time of our interview she was stationed in Tanzania as one of a number of female chefs working on the ground at various locations around Africa in her business, Callie-Anne on Safari. But this is just one aspect of Callie’s already very exciting and colourful chef career.
She’s appeared on Masterchef SA, starred in her own cooking programme and published a beautiful coffee table cookbook.
Tell us about your love affair with food and how it began.
My childhood and growing up as a complete ‘wild child’ on a game farm in Zimbabwe played a huge part in developing my love for food and Africa. I went fishing early in the mornings with my dad, I literally never wore shoes and I was a quintessential ‘bush girl’. As I look back on my life and my food journey, I really believe those were the building blocks that brought me to where I am. I think my passion for food is very closely linked to my upbringing – the lifestyle, the freedom, the outdoors – they are all a part of who I am. I grew up with a rich culture and strong heritage as an African and a Zimbabwean, and that led to me wanting to explore, travel and experience new cultures. “I only discovered my obsession with food later in life. One of my strongest childhood memories is being on holiday in Mozambique as a little girl, sitting on the rocks while my dad was shucking oysters, pouring Tabasco over them and eating them fresh out of the ocean . . .
Talk us through your food journey and your career so far.
My food journey has been a bit crazy! I think the first real step I took in committing to this career was Masterchef. It was an incredible experience. I did fairly well making it to the top 25, but I think not winning, or making it to the top 10, made me even more determined to keep going and become successful. Masterchef was the best thing that could’ve happened to me because it gave me the courage to pursue my dreams. I also spent time running the kitchens in my dad’s safari lodge in Mozambique and on my cooking show, Callie-Anne Cooks: Into The Wild, and these experiences were the inspiration behind becoming a ‘safari cook’ and sharing my passion for food and Africa with everyone. Learning to cook on fire and being forced to cook in bush kitchens without the modern luxuries of a typical kitchen played a beautiful part in getting me to where I am today. Now I am obsessed with Africa and cooking over an open fire.
What is Callie-Anne on Safari?
Callie-Anne on Safari is one of my hugest achievements to date. It started off as just an idea, and has grown into what I can proudly say is a successful, impactful business that people are really starting to take notice of. The idea was born after I started getting loads of requests to cook in remote places in Africa. I couldn’t keep up with the demand and I had this idea to get incredible African women, who know how to cook, to go out into the bush and share an African food experience with people. There are so many beautiful destinations, all of which have wonderful cuisine on offer, but often it’s not true to our African heritage. I felt this huge responsibility to share what we have to offer, as Africans. One of the things that I believe unites us, is cooking over fire. Right now I have eight incredible safari chefs or ‘bush babes’ working all over Africa, in places like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, the Congo . . . it’s overwhelming and so exciting.
What inspired you to publish a cookbook?
I always wanted to do a cookbook, mainly as a way to share my memories, my life and my journey. A Love Affair with Food in Africa is a safari cook book that has stories and tales of my life growing up in the bush. It’s a beautiful big book that has been my way of sharing my message that if you really want something, you just have to set your mind to it and you can achieve it. It’s full of traditional African recipes as well as recipes I’ve picked up on my travels and ‘Africanized’. It’s available on my website and at selected boutique stores in South Africa and London.
What do you love about Africa?
What a wonderful question! I love everything about Africa. I love being an African and the feeling when I tell people that this is where I am from. Africans are such gregarious, strong people who never give up. We are so rich in culture and, no matter where you travel in Africa, from the Congo to Kenya, Zimbabwe to Mozambique, we all have something that brings us together – and that is food – and cooking over a fire. It’s something every African can relate to. I’m so fortunate to have travelled extensive around Africa and it has truly grown this pride inside of me.
Prep Time: 25mins Cooking time: 45mins Serves: 6-8 people
They say food is memory. Well when it comes to this dish it couldn’t be truer. Growing up in Zimbabwe as a little girl, eating Sadza with my Gogo will always be a special food memory for me. This is as traditional as it gets, something that gives you an idea of my heritage. And with just one bite…it may change your life!
500g Maize Meal
500g Beef stewing meat
6 large tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 large onion
1 red chilli
chomolia (or regular spinach or Kale)
2 cups of water
1 beef stock cube
Splash of canola oil
Salt and pepper to season
- This is a little bit of a mixed basket because you need to make 3 different things, but it’s not difficult cooking at all and its very much worth the effort, I promise.
- We need to make the beef stew first. Remember this is the African way, simple and uncomplicated. Chop your onions, garlic, chilli and tomatoes (as small or as big as you like)
- Heat up a splash of oil in a medium pot until its piping hot. We need to brown the meat first, so I like to use stewing meat with bones, but without is cool too.
- Throw the beef in and let it bronze and caramelize, you want some good colour on the meat. Once you are happy with the colour you can add the onions, garlic and chilli to the pot.
- Once the onions start softening we can add all the chopped tomatoes, give it a good mix and let it simmer for 5 mins.
- Dissolve the stock cube in 3cups of water and add this to your stew (you can use home made stock if you prefer) however using a cube is more traditional.
- Leave the stew to simmer for approx 25-30mins. This is not a ragu so remember you want the meat to keep its texture and bite, don’t overcook it.
- We can cook our Sadza now… If you don’t have regular maize meal at home, you could use polenta. Add approx 500ml of boiling water into a pot with a pinch of salt. Add 2 cups of mealie meal at a time and stir. I let it bubble and thicken while slowly adding more and mealie meal whilst continuing to stir. Its going to be hot like lava so please be careful. The sadza should be getting very thick at this point and you will need to keep mixing and adding (put your back into it) the consistency needs to be thick like mashed potato. When you are happy, pop the lid on and let it chill on a very low heat while you cook the chomolia.
- Thinly Slice the chomolia leaves and stems together. If you can’t find any chomolia, the most like this is Kale. Its sturdy and holds together better than spinach. Add this to a pan with some canola oil until its softened and cooked through. Season well and let’s serve our sadza spoils.
This picture shows you the plating style, but what it doesn’t show you is how to eat it and this my friends is part of the experience… Eating with your hands. Taking the sadza first and creating a ball in your palm, then flattening it and using it to scoop a little stew and a little chomolia into one mouthful.
Everywhere you go in Africa, we speak one language. This is our universal Language, our language of love.
Sadza ne muriwo AKA Sadza sitchebo
This African Goodness happens to be made by me.
AFRICAN INSPIRED GRILLED GOODNESS
Prep Time: 25 mins Cooking time: 30 mins Serves: 4-6 people
This recipe is inspired by this wonderful campaign to save water in Cape town, South Africa.
I think that being conscious about saving water needs to be a part of our daily lives and we need to be aware of it, water is precious-let’s look after it.
I decided to do a proudly African platter with fresh and vibrant ingredients that celebrate our local produce. Making a meal without using any water is actually a great way to get back to our roots and cook on the fire or the grill. Keeping the ingredients crunchy, vibrant, and full of all the wonderful nutrients we need from them.
This grilled platter of African goodness- is my tribute to saving water. Let’s save amanzi (water) and share the love through food!
Mange tout or sugar snaps
Lemons X 3
X 2 Sirloin/rump steaks
Bunch of fresh parsley
Big red chillies
Olive oil (a big glug)
Mustard X 1tsp
Garlic cloves X 2
Red wine vinegar (a splash)
Squeeze of honey
- You can do this over the open fire or just using a grill pan, whatever you have at home. We just need to use something that is going to give us some charcoal’d vibes.
- The first thing we do is prep all the veg, cut it however you feel, I like to cut it up in all different sizes so that when we plate it, it looks beautiful on the plate, also think about presentation….
- This is literally a matter of grilling each veg and setting it aside.
- When you are grilling the veg think about timing and start with the veg that you know takes the longest. I usually start with the corn and broc, then move on to the other quicker cooking veg (baby marrow, snap peas, etc) The chillies are completely optional, grill them or keep them fresh, they add a heaty kick which it great with this dish.
- The lemons, half them and pop them on the grill. These are great to serve on the side to squeeze when eating- and they will have a more intense flavour when cooked like this.
- There is no stress about keeping the veg warm. Cold or room temp works with this dish, it’s totally up to you.
- The last item we need to cook it’s our beautiful piece of nyama (meat). This is also flexible so use what you like. Chicken, lamb or pork works. Or just do veggie vibes.
- I cook the meat medium rare, 3-5mins on a seriously HOT grill (on each side) and allow it to rest before slicing. I lay these slices over the veg and let the juices flavour our veg.
- Lastly the garnish, I like to use a creamy feta and a bunch of flat leaf parsley to sprinkle over the top. Since this dish it on the healthy side, a little creamy spoil works so well.
- For the dressing, it’s just a matter of finding an empty jam jar that you have lying around, putting all the ingredients into it and giving it a good shake. I pour this over right at the end, when the platter is ready, or let your guests add their own dressing.
- Get creative and take pride it the presentation. This dish really personifies fresh and vibrant, something we don’t get when boiling or steaming food, allowing us to create something yummy without using our precious water to do it.
P.S You can also save water by having a crisp glass of wine to accompany this delicious dish!
Details: www.callieannecooks.com, social media: callieannecooks, callieanne_onsafari
Text: Leah Shone | Photograph: RAYNO EGNER