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A Peri-Peri Good Time: Spiced Up South Africa PDF Print E-mail
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A Peri-Peri Good Time: Spiced-Up South Africa

Recipes:

Peri Q

Sweet and Sticky Chicken Wings

Roasted Reds Tomato and Vodka Soup

Ricotta Gnocchi with Nando’s Roasted
Reds and Wilted Spinach Casserole

Peri Peri Nutty Chicken

Whisky Maple Pear and Peri Peri Ice Cream

Story by Dave DeWitt
Photos by Dave DeWitt and Mary Jane Wilan
Recipes by Rochelle Schaetzl and Nancy Gerlach

Chile peppers lured us to South Africa. One was a popular pickled pepper that was the focus of a plant patent matter that I was consulting on. The other was the Peri-Peri, the principal pepper used in the hot sauces of Nando’s, a large chain of spicy chicken restaurants based in South Africa.

The adventure began with email from Derek Harms, a barrister who was handling a legal action challenging a plant patent. Would I consult on the case as an expert? Yes, I replied. Would I travel to South Africa as the client’s guest expert and testify at the hearing in front of the Registrar of Plant Patents of the South Africa Department of Agriculture? You bet!

By a weird coincidence, I also had email from another South African deeply involved with peppers, Chris Thorpe, the general manager of the international grocery division of Nando’s. Chris offered me a tour of South Africa and the Nando’s operations there if I were ever in the country. I replied yes, of course, and told him about legal case I was consulting on and a deal was struck. The first week I’d be in Pretoria for the hearing, but after that Chris would show us around his country.

Chickenmobile

 

 

Nando's Chickenmobile

 

 

Pretoria and Johannesburg

To get to South Africa, we first flew from Albuquerque to Minneapolis, where we caught a flight to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. That remarkable airport has both a casino and a museum! We were able to change our dollars for rand, the currency of South Africa. Then we boarded the nonstop flight to Johannesburg that went nearly the entire length of the African continent. At the airport, we were picked up by a polite but reticent driver who drove us to the Holiday Inn in Pretoria, the capital of the country. Our room overlooked a lovely garden of tropical plants surrounding the swimming pool.

For the first few days I was constantly in meetings with Derek as we planned out the testimony for the hearing. During the down time, we did touristy things like visiting National Zoo and the impressive Voortrekker Monument that was a tribute to the Dutch settlers. I also watched several rugby matches which I enjoyed enormously. We ate hotel food that was pretty good, including bobotie, a curry mince pie, fiery mutton chops, chicken that tasted like chicken in the old days, and spicy masala chickpeas. However, the South African beer was very disappointing. All the brands are owned by South African Breweries, which also owns Miller Beer in the U.S., and although there is a great wine tradition in South Africa, the beers are very ordinary.

The hearing in the plant patent case went very well, but I had to do fight off an aggressive attorney for the other side who kept trying to put words in my mouth. But I had previous experience in court, kept my cool, and some of my sarcastic replies to questions made the Registrar laugh. I can’t really go into the details of the case, and as of this writing, the Registrar had not ruled, more than two months later. With the work over, it was time for some fun. Big game fun.

Kruger National Park

Chris picked us up at the hotel in a van that held numerous other people, including his girlfriend Valerie; Selwyn Bron, the personal assistant to the owner of Nando’s, Robbie Brozin; Rochelle Schaetzl, director of new product development. John Paidoussi, the CEO of the grocery division of Nando’s and his wife, Dawn, met with us later that evening.

Crocodile River Nile Crocodile

View of the Crocodile River from the Verandah of Robbie's Lodge. A Nile Crocodile.

We were headed to Robbie’s lodge at Leopard Creek, the exclusive golf estate just across the Crocodile River from Kruger National Park. The three-hour drive on excellent highways took us through rolling grassland, patches of forests, lakes with trout in them, and mountain passes—but no jungles. Forget jungles, because South Africa doesn’t have them.

Dave and Rochelle

 

 

Dave and Rochelle

 

 

Apparently Robbie does a lot of entertaining at his lodge, because the five bedrooms were beautifully decorated and each had its own luxurious bath. There was cable TV for watching the rugby matches, or you could go out on the verandah and watch the hippos in the Crocodile River or the vervet monkeys in the trees. I’m no expert, but the golf course was amazingly beautiful, with ponds and perfectly manicured greens. There were birds like fish eagles and little antelopes called bushbucks everywhere. That night, Rochelle, who’s the de facto Nando’s Official Corporate Chef, prepared an amazing dinner with nearly every course spiced up with various Nando’s products, especially their Peri-Peri sauces.

Hippo Crossing

 

 

Hippo Crossing

 

 

The next day we took an 8-hour tour of Kruger National Park with the hopes of seeing the Big Five: elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, lion, and leopard. Paved roads loaded with elephant and other animals’ droppings took us through the park, and only at official tourist stops with buildings were we allowed to get out of the van. Our hosts were extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife. The scenery was pure savannah, with open spaces, brush, acacia trees, and the occasional watering hole. Finally, we were in what looked like the African plains of the movies.


 

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