Kula ulishe milio, roho nayo ipe mlo ~ Swahili proverb

Eating feeds your body, but also feeds your soul.

Picnic perfection at Solio Lodge

Solio Lodge is a real foodie’s heaven. Anyone who has stayed there will have enjoyed the nourishing and vibrant culinary creations, picked fresh from the bountiful kitchen garden. Much of this is down to Ava, the manager and Elvis, the head chef. Both are avid gardeners and lovers of simple, nutritious food straight from the veggie patch.

Elvis has been working at Solio Lodge for seven years ©Mark Boyd

Tastes of Thailand and the Mediterranean thread their way through the cuisine at Solio Lodge. Somewhat of a globe trotter in her previous life, Ava lived in Italy for five years, where her passion for flavour blossomed. She loves how Italians take one ingredient and really celebrate it without drowning it in other flavours.

Team Solio are back in action after months of closure

An appetite for fresh flavours is something Ava has passed on to Elvis. You might have seen him recently in a live cook-a-long on our Instagram IGTV. Cool, calm and collected, and just metres away from several of Solio’s famous horned herbivores, Elvis chatted to us about his cooking journey while demonstrating how to make the perfect chapatis.

Elvis makes his famous chapatis ©Mark Boyd

Solio Shamba

Being able to go into the shamba (Swahili for ‘small farm’), pick fresh salad leaves, and half an hour later have a plate bursting with flavour and colour, brings Elvis and Ava great joy. Even more so given that there’s no plastic or carbon footprint.

Solio’s shamba is thriving after the rains

‘We’re so lucky here in Kenya to have rich soil and warm sunshine, you can grow the best ingredients. The tomatoes we produce are just as good as in the Mediterranean!’
~ Ava, Solio Lodge Manager

Pili Pili Ho Ho

This week, Ava and Elvis have been topping up supplies of their notorious ‘pili pili ho ho’, created from fresh chillies grown in the Solio shamba. It’s super easy and fun to create: stuff a glass bottle full of fresh hot chillies (pili pili in Swahili) plus a handful of green peppercorns if you have them. Next, raid your friend’s bar and fill the bottle right to the top with equal parts dry sherry, gin and vodka. Cork and hide in a dark place for at least a month, the longer, the better. It’s a great way to reuse pretty glass bottles. Add to soups and stews with caution – it packs quite a punch! How to make:

Best enjoyed with Solio’s homemade focaccia bread

You will need some of the hottest fresh or sun-dried tiny red and green peppers you can find, a small handful of green peppercorns, a couple of small sprigs of thyme and rosemary, dry sherry – enough to fill ⅓ of your chosen bottle, gin – enough to fill ⅓ of your chosen bottle and vodka – enough to fill ⅓ of your chosen bottle.

To prepare:

  1. Stuff all dry ingredients into your glass bottle
  2. Now comes the best part…raid your best friend’s bar and fill up the bottle right to the top with 1/3 dry sherry, 1/3 gin and 1/3 vodka
  3. Cork the bottle and hide it in a dark place for at least one month or as long as you wish. (The longer the better for the flavour)

The Jazziest Salad

Another favourite being enjoyed from the Solio Shamba this week is beetroot and mint salad. Elvis loves how guests are drawn to its brilliant pink hues which pop right out of the dish. People who don’t usually like this purple root vegetable are often converts after trying this dish, in which peppery beetroot sits on a bed of fresh mint, rocket, feta and olive oil.

You will need 6 beetroot (peeled), ¼ cup (2 fl oz) balsamic vinegar, cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard, ½ cup shredded fresh mint, 150g (5 oz) rocket, 200g (6 ½ oz) marinated feta in oil (crumbled) and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

To prepare:

  1. Place the beetroots in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 25-30 minutes or until soft.
  2. Drain and cut the beetroots into wedges.
  3. Toss with balsamic vinegar, pepper and mustard and set aside to cool.
  4. To make the mint salad, place the mint, rocket leaves, feta, and olive oil in a bowl and toss to combine.
  5. Place the mint salad on serving plates and top with the beetroot.
  6. Serve with grilled bread slices.

Salad is served! ©Mark Boyd

Crunchy Goodness

Finally, we have one last recipe that we just had to share: Solio Lodge’s famous vegetable tempura. Crunchy, light and utterly moreish, it’s unanimously loved by guests. It’s also surprisingly simple to create. Store cupboard ingredients make a light batter to transform whatever fresh veggies you have. Combine soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, garlic and honey to make the mouth-watering Thai-style dip.

You will need 1 ¼ cups plain flour, 1 egg, 1 ¼ cups water, 1 onion, sliced, 4 zucchini, sliced, 50g green beans, light vegetable oil for deep-frying, ⅓ cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons Thai sweet chilli sauce, 1 crushed clove of garlic and 1 tablespoon of honey.

A graceful elephant, spotted near our Masai Mara lodge, Sala’s Camp

To prepare:

  1. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre, add egg and water and whisk until combined.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Finely slice onion and zucchini into thin strips about 6cm long.
  4. Trim beans to about 6 cm long and halve lengthways.
  5. Add vegetables to batter and stir to combine.
  6. Heat oil in a medium pan.
  7. Using tongs gather a small bunch of batter-coated vegetables (roughly 2 pieces of each vegetable) and lower into oil.
  8. Hold submerged in oil a few seconds until batter begins to set and vegetables hold together.
  9. Release from tongs and cook until crisp and golden.
  10. Drain on paper towels.
  11. Repeat until all vegetables are cooked.

How to prepare the dipping sauce:

  1. Place all remaining ingredients in a small bowl and gently whisk together with a fork until combined.

Serve tempura immediately with dipping sauce.

Food for Thought

As we finished chatting to Ava and Elvis about their favourite topic (food), Ava was off to sew new seeds in the Solio Lodge kitchen garden, a space in which she finds solace and joy. We hope we’ve shared a little ‘food for thought’. Until you can come and dine at Solio Lodge, give some of their delicious recipes a try at home and dine with us in spirit.

Happy cooking!