Hi Everyone. My extremely handsome Bengal cat, ZaZu, was featured on Through the Thicket. If you are interested in seeing him in all his handsomeness be sure to stop by Kathryn’s blog HERE. In addition, Kathryn has all kinds of tasty recipes posted, including tips on baking a multi-layer cake. It’s definitely worth a read.
♦ ♦ ♦
By now, most of you are well aware that I spent three recent years living in Nairobi, Kenya. I loved living there for many reasons including easy access to travel destinations that I might not have otherwise prioritized on my bucket list. Nairobi made quick jaunts to Turkey for peshtamals, shopping for spices in Zanzibar and lazy beach getaways to Manda Island possible.
Manda Island you may be wondering. Where is this?
Manda Island is part of the Lamu Archipelago, a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean along the Northern Coast of Kenya. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, characterized by the simplicity of it’s structural forms. It’s a magical place and many Kenyans, expats, and European tourists flock to the Lamu Archipelago to frolic in the crystal blue oceans and relax on the pristine white beaches; however, it’s close proximity to Somalia, along with several high profile kidnappings of Western tourists by pirates, had instilled fear in many would be visitors and wreaked havoc on Lamu’s precious tourism industry.
From Hawaii to Zanzibar amongst others, I am no stranger to island life; however, Manda Island has got to be the closest I have ever come to a full fledged Gilligan’s Island experience.
Let’s start with getting there, shall we, since this is an experience in of itself. To access Manda Island, you first take an itty, bitty not-for-the-faint of heart plane to the Manda Airstrip (LAU). Yes, I said airstrip. This is no Charles De Gaulle or John F Kennedy International airport but rather one tiny unmanned airstrip where pilots have to coordinate amongst themselves to avoid any “oopsies” at landing and takeoff.
Once arriving at the Manda Airstrip, you squeeze out of the puddle jumper and enter into an open air structure that’s hot as Hades. It’s here that you get your first glimpses of the exotic cats of Lamu. These are some of the most gorgeous cats I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of cats). They are believed to be true descendants of the royal cats of Egypt and if you were to see them you would surely believe this to be true as these sleek kitties are very regal in stature. As I watch them I can easily imagine them lazing about with Cleopatera and her court.
Someone then hurriedly collects you and whisks your bags down a long stone pathway that seems to mysteriously dip into the sea. At the end of this pathway, there is a series of stone steps that leads you down to your chariot, a small boat that you have to carefully navigate so as to avoid an impromptu dip in the sea. It is at this moment that you thank the heavens above that you decided not to wear those wedged heels after all.
After a 20 minute boat ride, you arrive at your final destination, the most pristine beach you will ever lay your eyes on. This beach is so perfect and virginal that the sand looks as though no human toe has ever touched its surface. Hammocks are at the ready to gently lull any takers to sleep as they slowly sway underneath breezy palms. There’s nary a human in sight and it truly feels like you were the chosen one lucky enough to be shipwrecked on the most glorious and serene of islands.
Does this sound like a fairy book romance? Perhaps. But there is a little secret as to why this little beauty nestled in the Indian Ocean feels more like a scene out of Gilligan’s Island than your typical beach holiday. You see, weeks prior to my visit to the Lamu Archipelago, armed pirates (yes, they are real. . .not myths from the movies), on not one. . . but two occasions, swept up in the dark of the night in their high powered speedboats. They stormed these seemingly untouched beaches, grabbed unknowing hostages and dragged them across the virginal sand into their boats where they sped off into the cloak of darkness.
These unfortunate events were plastered all over the news and would be tourists cancelled their holidays faster than you could blink an eye. The U.S. Navy became a VERY noticeable presence and were the talk of the town. Every local seemed to be on a first name basis with every soldier. I couldn’t be any prouder when I saw the locals beaming as they talked about the military from my home country. And I couldn’t be more excited when I quickly discovered that the luxury boutique that I was staying in opened up their normally exclusive pool for the soldiers to enjoy on their days off.
Arrrrr matey! No one is going to mess with these tourists with the stone wall protection of the military.
While I was at Manda Island, I was smart enough to order the house cocktail at the boutique hotel I was staying at (you can find it HERE). This was the cocktail of dreams and, to this day, not a day goes by that I don’t think about that cocktail. It was flooded with the sweet, citrusy taste of passion fruit, seeds and all. While the Mr. and I tried to re-create this transportive libation at home. . .no can do. Perhaps it was because we weren’t privy to the secret ingredients that drew you into this cocktail. Or perhaps it was the Gilligan’s island experience that made it all the more addictive. I guess the only way I’ll get my fix is to once again reunite with my beloved Manda Island.
While living in Kenya, the passion fruit that was celebrated in this cocktail, amongst many other sweet delights in this country, was the closest fruit to delivering the sweet taste of the oranges I was familiar with while growing up in the states. Oranges were virtually nonexistent in Kenya and, if you were lucky enough to find them, you would be mortgaging your house for a mere bag full of them. Passionfruit, on the other hand, was as common as an erratic taxi or matatu in the city. It’s funny how fruits that are considered common place and ordinary in one country could be considered rare and exotic in another. And the passionfruit is the orange of Kenya.
While this is no passionfruit, with citrus season in full swing, I wanted to give a nod to the memories of the passionfruit I had enjoyed while living in Kenya. To do this, I crowned a citrus, rosemary cake with a kaleidoscope of winter citrus. Specifically I used blood oranges, mandarinquats, clementines, and minneola tangelos. . .citrus heaven.
The brown sugar and honey glaze that hug the top of this cake is so divine that I have big plans to use it in future recipes. Look for those soon.
FOR THE GLAZE: Ingredients: Directions: FOR THE CAKE: Makes two 8 inch rounds. Ingredients: Directions: Cake adapted from Better Homes & Gardens *Note: I used one 8 inch cake pan and three 4 inch mini round pans.
Rosemary Citrus Cake with Honey Brown Sugar Glaze
FOR THE GLAZE:
FOR THE CAKE:
Makes two 8 inch rounds.
Cake adapted from Better Homes & Gardens
*Note: I used one 8 inch cake pan and three 4 inch mini round pans.
Arrr! Grab a cup of tea or coffee (preferably Kenya) and enjoy a slice of this cake before winter citrus is just a distant memory.