The Royal Livingstone

You are transported to a different era when touching down in Livingstone. F&HE food editor Leila went to Zambia in search of raw and fresh ingredients

By LEILA SAFFARIAN

Perhaps it’s all those colonial-period novels, but images of sipping a sidecar cocktail while sitting alongside the majestic Zambezi come to mind… The images were probably the result of vaguely paying attention during history class, remembering Livingstone was a colonial city, named after the British explorer David Livingstone and capital of the southern region of Zambia. The main talking point is the Victoria Falls, which attracts thousands of visitors each year as they seek to experience one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

It was only a 25-minute bus ride from the airport to Sun International’s Royal Livingstone resort, our base for three days. On route, we spot giraffe, elephants, buck, many bicycles and riders, and baobabs. I gasp at the sight of the exquisite ‘smoke clouds’ of the mighty Victoria Falls. The bus stops at the resort and there in the distance are the banks of the Zambezi. Old-fashioned fans hang from the ceiling; pith helmets adorn the walls; soft, deep-seated leather couches dot the lounge and rows of book-lined cabinets tower over a baby grand near an elegant bar. Lunch on the terrace is followed by a short walk through the grounds to reach the Falls. Raincoats are provided for guests walking the Vic Falls path. You can feel the force of the vibrations through the ground as you approach the entrance to the Falls and the sound is incredible. Raincoats are a good idea – we are drenched. I look over the edge and quickly take a step back… it is a very long drop.

An adventure in Zambia wouldn’t be complete without a steam train and a grand, luxurious affair awaits you aboard the Royal Livingstone Express. A red carpet is laid on the tracks for guests; cold beer is served in cut glass, and old-school charm abounds. The journey commences through the Dambwa suburb where children rush out as the 1945 steam train chugs towards the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which runs parallel to the Zambezi River. Sitting on the viewing deck we spot white rhino, buffalo and elephant, and nothing beats an African sunset. The train crosses the Sinde River and stops 17km from Livingstone. A bell rings and the train manager invites his guests to a six-course dinner in the dining cart. Think amuse bouche of chilled gazpacho, followed by a pear and blue cheese construction, and succulent lamb with an intense jus. As delicious, extravagant and elegant as our dinner is, I am looking forward to whipping up some recipes with Alexander Coupy, executive chef at the five-star hotel. Alex’s enthusiasm for seasonal and fresh produce shines through as we chat about local produce in Zambia. He has years of experience at the resort.

Alex is keen to get going and what could be better than creating dishes alongside the waters of the Zambezi. Alex puts me to work, peeling avocados for the avocado and fennel soup we are about to make. Light, fresh and perfect for summer – Alex says guests are conscious of these elements, even while on holiday. Much of the fresh produce is sourced from local farmers through Sun International’s Corporate Social Investment projects. The Royal Livingstone has its own worm farm that incorporates organic fertilisers into their gardens. I get to taste and sample the soup immediately – I definitely feel healthier with the first sip. A combination of chilled soup, Zambezi charm and good wine does that to a girl.

Click on the links below for the recipes created by executive chef Alexander Coupy:

Avocado and fennel soup with pickled fennel

Baby marrow ‘spaghetti’ with fresh basil, sun-dried tomato pesto and sunflower seeds

Fresh cucumber ‘cannelloni’ with cream cheese, chive and rocket filling, and tomato salsa

Raw and fresh carrot cake

SOURCES
Graeme Wyllie

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