I love traveling around Kenya and I am always game for a safari which involves lots of cooking. So when a few months ago, over a bottle of cold beer at a Simba Union Koroga, I was introduced to a team of chefs who were taking the cooking safari to the next level, I was instantly intrigued.
Meet the One Star House party crew – a trio of internationally renowned chefs travelling the world creating pop-up Michelin-style food using only local ingredients. When I heard that they were on a scouting mission for Kenyan food ideas for their upcoming pop-up restaurant at the Lakehouse in Tigoni, I insisted that we go and roast a goat with some wazee‘s from Kajiado. We are speaking Maasai elders here and these guys do things by the book: under the stars, on specially selected sticks, using the whole goat, from tripe to tongue.
We arrived at our campsite around midday. Our potatoes had been cooking in the charcoal jiko which permanently resides in the back of my pickup, since we had left Kitengela. But it was still early to eat so we decided to embark on a spirited hike under the midday sun to look for a suitable goat. After a few hot hours spent wandering through the Southern Kajiado bush, we found that our goat had anticipated our interest and was waiting back at camp in the shade of an old Acacia tree. We then proceeded to await the master chef, Mzee Kaburu, an interesting old man who proudly claims to have eaten more than a thousand goats over the course of his lifetime.
James, the globe-trotting NOMA chef, got visibly excited as the moment of the lamb slaughter approached. With a well-practised gesture he pulled out a worn knife roll inside of which were what looked like a few thousand dollars worth of exquisite, Japanese steel chef knives. Having inspected them in awe, I’ll never forget the look on everyone’s face when Mzee Kaburu strolled over, picked one up, gave it a good looking over and put it right back in its sheath. He then proceeded to pull out his trusty njoro with which he chopped off a few leafy branches to make a ‘work table’, then grabbed the goat and went on to give the esteemed chefs a lesson in butchering that would be bound to astound the finest of London butchers.
After performing the customary smothering of the goat, as is the tradition in that area, Mzee Kaburu cut a small mafuko into the animal’s neck from which he proceeded to pour the blood into a metal sufuria. This was then passed around to the chefs who to my surprise all drank it with great gusto. Once that whole bit was over, he laid the carcass onto the bed of branches and working his way down the back straps, removed the the backbone. Once the offal had been separated from the meat, he gave all the tripe to a young lad to clean for roasting on twigs over the fire. Next he skinned the legs and ribs which he speared through some Acacia branches and put over the fire. He finished the job by cleaning the head to make soup with some special miti shamba he had collected for the next morning.
We all retired to the fire and spent the evening egging each other on to see who could eat the most nyama choma and produce the cleanest ribs. We woke up to what the more mettled of the people in the team described as a ‘very unique’ goat’s head soup. And that was it. Pretty sure this is one experience those chefs will never forget.
M/Wazee: Elder person/s
Njoro: Maasai sword
Jiko: Coal stove/oven
Miti Shamba: Traditional Herbs
Nyama Choma: Barbecued Meat