This year, we are spending this the jolliest of seasons away from home, celebrating at our family’s ‘faraway-happy-place-by-the-sea’, a camping spot right on the beach at Pomene in Mozambique.
Palm trees, blue seas, fishermen with their nets and boats, up close and personal with the vibrant and colourful cultural heritage of the rural Mozambicans – this is what the holiday is all about! However, this beach bliss means no electricity! Only open fires, gas-run cookers, fridges and deep freezes, solar panels and invertors, along with the wind in our hair, the sun on our backs and the sand between our toes. We wouldn’t have it any other way! This is probably the closest to paradise one could get without having to catch a flight!
Christmas gifts are wrapped, the Christmas tree and its decorations packed lock stock and barrel together with the ‘Welcome’ wreath, which is going to assume its spot pinned to one of the poles at the entrance to the boma the second we arrive! Not to forget the battery operated fairy lights and never dare to leave behind Goombay Dance Band and Boney M Christmas music – what would a Christmas be without these? It is a long-standing family tradition to decorate the Christmas tree with our much-loved retro 80’s music playing in the background. No ‘modern’ band will ever do the trick! Whether at home or in Mozam, these melodies instantly flood the atmosphere with everything that is Christmas.
Our home for the holidays is idyllically set out - tents for two are dotted around under the shade of nearby trees, adding a whole new meaning to ‘rooms with a view’! With a well-equipped boma that serves as a kitchen-come-dining-room-come-gathering-place, views of the sea, the beach a stone’s throw away and a daily vista that conjures up the magical tranquillity of the tropics, our family absolutely delights in our time spent in this spot!
This place has so much to offer, and the family always seems to achieve that perfect balance between time spent ‘chilling’ and staying active. From ski-boat trips out to sea, to scuba diving on the famous Zambia Reef and amazing bird watching when tripping up the rivers between the mangrove swamps – Pomene truly delivers a one-of-a-kind Christmas!
Being away from home over Christmas, and camping without the convenience of electricity, brings with it a unique set of challenges when it comes to the preparation of a Christmas feast! As it is incredibly hot up there at this time of year, we enjoy the festive fare the night before Christmas. It’s therefore much cooler! (Lunch time is siesta time anyway!)
Now I never want to compromise on the festivities of Christmas simply because I am out of my cooking comfort zone. I am therefore required to do what I enjoy best - think outside the box when it comes to menu planning! One might assume our Christmas menu would involve seafood, however, we keep it traditional! We have so many other opportunities to eat fish caught by our ski-boating fishermen and women, and even the odd Crab Curry when the local Mozambican women come around with their fare, gleaned from the nearby mangrove swamps.
We travel up a few days before Christmas so I’m able to buy, prepare and serve foods on Christmas Eve that will be able to last a few days in the fridge and in our assortment of cooler boxes filled with ice. Ice is gold! Who can survive gin and tonics and wine without ice? We make a huge amount of ice at home and transport it up with us in our mini deep freeze!
So, here is our Christmas 2016 Menu:
Watermelon Balls in Ginger-Infused Champagne - We buy fantastic watermelons on the journey up!
Glazed Gammon and Mustard Sauce - Both are made at home, gammon frozen partially glazed, then glazing to be completed in a homemade bush oven creatively designed by my handy hubby, Ken!
Stuffed Roast Chicken - Boned, stuffed and bush oven ready.
And of course, Gravy - Made from gammon stock after cooking, frozen and heated on gas top.
Veggies: In keeping with my mother’s advice from childhood - one green, one orange, one white, one below the ground, one above the ground and one along the ground – this rule is so ingrained, I can’t help myself, I take this tradition all the way to Pomene!
- Hasselback Potatoes (White, along the ground) - Parboiled on gas stove top, prepared and placed in foil tray below the chicken in the bush oven, chicken juices dripping onto them adds delicious flavour.
- Honeyed Pumpkin (Orange, along the ground)
- Gem Squash filled with Fresh Green Beans (Green, above and along the ground) - Cooked on the gas stove, fresh from the farm garden.
- Spiced Rice – Simple! Easy! Also gas stove stuff.
Black Cherry Trifle – Made the day before and refrigerated until time to ravish, if there’s any room left in our bellies!
A January update
A Christmas spent far away from home in Mozambique means carting all our festive gear along with us on the two-day journey. This includes our Christmas tree. I should have known, however, that my utterly creative daughter Jackie would have been able to fashion some Christmas magic out of next to nothing! And that she did! Collecting a couple palm tree leaves, she ‘planted’ them in a bucket filled with sea sand and pebbles, creating a truly beautiful Mozambican Christmas tree for us. Adorned with all the traditional trimmings and lights brought with us from south of the border, we had the perfect festive feature to scatter some pressies underneath. We may have spent the festive season minus a front door, but we didn’t let that stop us! Pictured here is the Christmas wreath ordained to assume its spot on a pole at the entrance to the boma, which it did with aplomb, reminding the incidental passer-by that it was indeed the season to be jolly!
Pictured here is the little road-side kiosk where Jackie picked up her gift for the ‘Stealing Game’. Jax being a little like Maria – ‘how do you catch a cloud and pin it down, how do you keep a wave upon the sand’ - didn’t have time to buy her gift beforehand. And oh, how fortuitous that was! Jax popped into this inconspicuous little shop and bought possibly the most sought after gift of all; a beautiful beach rug, for only 450 meticais (about R100). She popped it into a brown paper bag she had found lying around, and finished it off with a touch of natural Christmas elegance.
Oh, the challenges of a ‘bush kitchen’! This is where the saying ‘n boer maak ‘n plan must have originated! Relying on gas and fire, and an ounce or two of inventiveness, we were able to use what we had to create Christmas cuisine at the coast! Cooking, fine, but cooking and keeping things warm simultaneously – now it gets tricky. See the pots of veggies, rice and gravy perilously stacked. And our little bush oven, well perfect for the cauliflower and broccoli cheese of course.
A Merry Mozambican Christmas might bring with it a few challenges, but we wouldn’t have it any other way! What a festive, fun and memorable time was had by all!