The Island of Lamu

Back when I was in Kenya over the summer, my family came to visit and we took a little trip to the island of Lamu, a small island near the border with Somalia. It’s a traditional Swahili island with no cars (only donkeys!) and beautiful hand-carved door frames. The residents are primarily Muslim, so the whole island has such a unique historic, Arab feel to it. What a cool place.

The second we arrived, a man walking down the street tried to coax us into buying some fresh lobster. At first, we resisted. We were friendly, but I am pretty sure none of us thought we’d buy the lobster. But this man was smart. By the time reached the door to our accommodations for the weekend, I was negotiating a price for these three beauties. I believe we agreed to around $30 USD, which our “chef-cooker” cooked up for the evening. We had a delicious meal of garlicky kale, coconut rice, and lobster in a tomato sauce.

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the lobsters we ate for dinner

We rented an entire house for the weekend. It was a gorgeous, three-story swahili-style house that came complete with its own caretaker, Katana. Katana arranged for the “chef-cooker” to come prepare the lobster dinner, and he also hooked us up with a pretty awesome dhow captain, Baji. Katana himself was a pretty sweet guy who enjoyed beers with us on the roof with the views seen below.

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views from the apendalo house, our residence for the weekend

The architecture in Lamu is old, and there is a giant, old castle in the center of town. Housed inside the castle is the Lamu market, which is full of fresh fruit and vegetables.

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castle in the middle of lamu town
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the main square in lamu town

Of course, the main form of transportation on the island is the donkey. I believe the only two motorized vehicles on Lamu are an ambulance and firetruck, though both are more like golf carts than the large trucks you’d see in the US. Lamu is just incredibly charming, and the people who live there are so, so friendly. They’re used to tourists, but I would say it is not incredibly touristy. Much less touristy than Zanzibar, anyway, which Eric and I visited in June.

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donkeys on the beach

Forty-five minutes away (walking), Shela Beach is the more touristy part of the island. Its historic, white-washed buildings are more pristine, and there seems to be more hotels than residences. Nonetheless, the beach was great, and the buildings, as seen below, were easy on the eyes.

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lamu architecture

The picture below is just cute. Henna on a little girl’s feet.

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a little girl’s henna feet

A popular activity on the island is a dhow cruise. Any dhow (a traditional swahili boat) captain will be happy to take you for a cruise. They offer all kinds of trips, including fishing and a myriad of other things, but we opted for a sunset dinner cruise, an option only offered by Baji. As all the other boats were heading to shore, we dropped anchor and Baji’s crew cooked us an incredible dinner on the boat – fresh fish, coconut rice, and curry. What to do with fish bones? Just toss them overboard, of course. We were treated with a pretty sweet sunset that evening, also.

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sunsets from a dhow (traditional boats) cruise
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not a bad sunset at all

Lamu – what a cool place!

Detox Week: Kale, Carrot, and Fennel Salad

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but after the holidays or other big trips that involve a lot of eating, Eric and I go into detox mode and try to eat a lot of salads. I, for one, ate my weight in Buckeyes this past weekend. We decided some heavy-duty detox was needed, which is when we brought in the kale.

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad (6)

I received some fun new kitchen toys for Christmas, including a cast iron pan and a mandolin. I also received a huge box full of fancy olive oils and vinegars. Yesterday I went to work making three different vinaigrettes for salads throughout the week as well as a homemade chili powder from Rick Bayless, which I saw on Mexico, One Plate at a Time before we left for Christmas. The vinaigrettes include a saffron + red wine vinegar + olive oil, chervil + sorrel + blood orange vinegar + lemon juice + olive oil, and basil + apple + chili powder + elderberry balsamic vinegar + olive oil. I just toss stuff in the food processor with an almost 1:1 acid to oil ratio. I use just a touch more oil than acid, but this produces a pretty acidic dressing. If you’re vinegar averse, add more oil. I prefer my salads vinegary.

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad (3)

We dressed this kale salad with the chervil + sorrel + blood orange vinegar + lemon juice + olive oil salad dressing. I like the strong citrus flavor on kale. I also tossed in some farro to make this a bit more substantial for dinner. Oh, and the carrots and fennel were very finely sliced using my new mandolin – fun!

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 bunches lacinato kale
1 large carrot, very finely sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, very finely sliced
1 cup farro, cooked
handful of sunflower seeds and shaved almonds

De-stem the kale and role the leaves up, then finely slice the leaves so you have long, noodle-like shreds. I used a mandolin to shave the fennel and carrots so they were just paper thin and super easy to eat. Toss everything together in a large bowl

For the dressing, I put 5-6 sorrel leaves, 1 small bunch of chervil, 1/2 cup of blood orange vinegar (or use apple cider vinegar), juice of half a lemon, and 1/2 cup of olive oil in the food processor along with some salt and pepper. Process until emulsified.