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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lobito, Benguela, and Catumbela Angola

We took advantage of a long weekend and went south for a trip.  We drove about seven hours south and visited Lobito, Benguela, and Catumbela.  It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend it, if you are in the area. It was amazing to me all the changes in terrain that we saw along the drive - lush, green fields, dry, desert regions, distant mountains along the horizon, and of course, the gorgeous beaches.

We stayed at a really pretty hotel in Lobito that was steps from the ocean.  The beach at the hotel was nearly deserted.  We spend a lovely morning on the beach playing in the waves and resting under a big umbrella. The pool at the hotel was equally enticing and we spend a few hours there as well.

As for exploring, we managed to see quite a bit while we were there.  In Lobito, we saw the port, the railroad, the beach, and a couple really pretty churches. In Benguela, we saw a bunch of the agricultural areas where the Portuguese use to grow sugar cane (now the Angolans grow corn, bananas, mangoes, etc), the Cuca (Angolan beer) factory, some of the military schools, and a couple of beaches.  In Catumbela, we saw the beautiful Catumbela River (which we were told are full of jacares [alligators], some ruins of an old Portuguese fort and church, the nice new bridge,  a local neighborhood and the big soccer stadium that was built for the African Cup in 2010.

We also went to the Chimalavera National Reserve but didn't get to see anything except the lodge and a random springbok that was hanging out there.  There is no road through the reserve - you just drive along the main road.  We stopped and had a packed lunch and tried not to melt in the heat of the day.

Last stop was Baia Azul (Blue Bay) and the smallest church I have ever seen (I'd say it might fit two rows of pews) the Church of Our Lady of Navigators.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chilled Mango Ginger Soup

This is such a delicious, easy, and not to mention elegant chilled soup!  And all you have to do is throw everyhing into a blender!

1 mango
1-2 diced chili peppers (to taste)
2-3 tablespoons grated ginger
A few mint leaves
½ - ¾ cup milk
Juice of 1 lemon

Pinch salt

Put everything in the blender and puree.  Chill and then serve in cute cups. ( I topped my with chopped green pepper. Optional but good).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Avocado Chicken Salad

I made this avocado chicken salad for sandwiches that we took to the beach (sorry to all my friends in the US experiencing terrible winter weather right now).  They turned out really great and were a nice solution for the beach since we didn't have to worry so much about the sandwiches staying perfectly cold (no mayo).

For the chicken, I had a couple of poached chicken breasts in the fridge, so that's what I used.  You could use grilled, baked, poached chicken - whatever you have on hand.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 small or 1 large ripe avocado (pits and peel removed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
juice of one medium lime
1/3 cup of finely chopped pecans (or nut of your choice)

Mash the avocado with a fork then add all the other ingredients.  Mix well.  Chill.

Oh, this would also be delicious with some crispy bacon mixed in but I didn't have any when I made it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


I am finally getting around to sharing my gnocchi recipe. It is so delicious and worth the effort involved. I usually double the recipe and freeze a batch for another day.

2 large potatoes (or 3 medium ones)
2 cups flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan 

Bake the potatoes until cooked through. Using an oven mit, remove skins. Place the  potatoes (while they are still nice and warm), one at s time, through a food mill or potato ricer.

Make a well with the potatoes then sprinkle four on top. Add eggs inside the well and gradually incorporate. Season with salt and pepper and add the cheese. Mix well.  Let dough rest with a damp towel draped over it for at least 30 minutes. (I do all this directly on my just-cleaned counter)

After it rests, cut off small portions and roll into long ropes.

Then, cut them in 1inch portions.
At this point, you can start cooking them. Or you can shape them using a gnocchi board or the back of a fork. 

Next, start a pot of boiling, heavily salted water. Don't overcrowd the pot. Boil a big handful at a time. When they float, take them out and put on a cookie sheet or in a bowl. If using a bowl, drizzle with oil so they don't stick together.

Once they are boiled, they can sit for a while if you need a break. Just a few minutes before you are ready to eat, heat a pan over high heat. Put in a little oil, and quickly sauté the gnocchi (only a couple minutes). Again, don't overcrowd the pan.

Toss with your favorite sauce and serve!

If you want to make extra to freeze, you can freeze them after shaping them. Just dust a cookie sheet with flour and place a single layer of gnocchi on it. Freeze them and then move them to a freezer bag.


All recipes are on Petitchef