sarah lilfordFrom : Theindependent.co.zw
By : Dusty Miller
I’m grateful to professional outside caterer and events coordinator Sarah Lilford, for writing a beautiful book entitled “Dusty Road, a taste of farm life and living in Zimbabwe.”
First published in January this year, a second edition is already being prepared for re-print in Mauritius.

In 260 lavishly illustrated glossy pages on quality heavy stock, the hard cover book provides a history of the Lilfords and their extended family in this country and a focus on local farming in its heyday and at its most deeply depressing at the height of lunatic land invasions.

It’s a travel book, with much emphasis on the author’s personal journeys for pleasure and as a top cook in this country, the region, in Europe and the Commonwealth and it’s a state-of-the art classy coffee table cookbook with more than 80 mouthwatering recipes for local and international dishes from Amarula ice-cream and avocado pear dip to vundu curry and warthog pie with mushrooms.

Perhaps more importantly, while the book (ISBN 978-0-7974-4704-2) stays in print (at US$40 a copy) there will always been an attractive, highly acceptable, Christmas, birthday or farewell gift available for any Zimbabwean, ex-Zimbo, farmer or foodie in the family.

Author Sarah Lilford, at just 42, has compiled a mini-masterpiece which will be equally welcome in most kitchens and studies across Zimbabwe.

She officially launched the publication on Sunday at a laid-back informal brunch at a new — to me — venue Raintree Estate in rolling, well-treed Umwinsidale Valley, home to the horsey set. A magnificent fish-rich river plunges dramatically over granite boulders, winding through the 29 acre (11,7 hectare) property.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable, memorable day out in the sunny, summery Highveld countryside, just 11 kms from Chisipite shops.

The invite said brunch from 9am. I thought we’d get there fashionably late, about 9:45, and by then the place was packed…the joint jumping jovially. At any one time there were probably 150 guests present, with much coming and going throughout the day.

Youngest visitor was possibly eight weeks; at the other end of the age spectrum were several octogenarians.

Her book highlights several high-profile functions, one being a five day long fancy dress do. On another occasion at a posh Zambezi River safari camp, guests were in danger of going hungry when a hyena ate the cooler box and the lovely rare roast topsides therein. As befits a farmer’s daughter (her folks were in the Horseshoe Block near Guruve/Sipolilo,) she “made a plan”; no one starved.

On Sunday, guests were given a choice of welcoming drinks: champagne (well, good quality South African bubbly, not Veuve Clicquot!), sangria (wine-based fruit punch typical of Spain and Portugal), iced-tea or home-made lemon juice.

The brunch menu which Sarah prepared with loyal staff, included lots of the absolute nicest, moistest, most tender honey-glazed ham with sweet mustard sauce any one at our table had tasted, with a wide range of exceptionally well kept imported and local cheeses with pickles and preserves: sweet red-pepper jam, fruit chutney and pickled cherry peppers.

There were bacon and onion tarts with roasted cherry tomatoes and rosemary; the sort of red-rare roasted beef topside the Zambezi hyena njonjaed and baskets of heavenly bread. As a plate, platter, bowl or basket emptied it was swiftly replenished by beaming staff.

Sarah e-mailed me her ”full” menu the next day. Checking photographs, however, I spotted — unlisted — sun-dried tomato and nut dip, superb smoked salmon paté and egg mayonnaise sauce, all which added to a grand culinary experience.