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Featherlight crepes and cardboard wraps at Veldemeer’s Cafe.

THE festive countdown has begun, Christmas is fast approaching, and home cooks will have been busy mixing up sumptuous Christmas puddings and cakes all day on Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent in the Christian calendar.

Another annual Christmas tradition is to attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah, the dramatic oratorio tracing the story of Jesus Christ, that still brings audiences to their feet almost 300 years after it was composed. Coinciding with these two events was the opening of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, that kicked off in Al Bay Stadium in Al Khor, with a match between Ecuador and the host country.

Falafel Buddha bowl at Cafe Veldrmeers.

All of this made Sunday 20 November a busy day, but we still made time to join friends for lunch at Cafe Veldemeers in Arundel Village, before heading off to Arundel School Chapel to listen to Handel’s Messiah, performed by The Marden Singers, and conducted by Margot Dennis. Veldemeers was pumping and patrons were packed cheek by jowl inside, on the veranda, and on a paved area outside. Even hardcore home cooks in Harare love to eat out occasionally, especially on a Sunday. Luckily our hostess had reserved a table in advance.

Featherlight crepes, cream and ice cream.

Buddhist cuisine is simple, the inspiration behind the Buddha bowl, a trendy one-bowl meal featuring rice, grains and vegetables, with a hit of protein from tofu, chickpeas or lentils. Veldemeers offers four different types of Buddha bowls, all antioxidant rich, nutritious and designed to make you feel good. This cuisine is also said to assist in weight loss, for those hoping to achieve a svelte appearance in time for the office party.

The falafel Buddha bowl looked enticing and tasted delicious. Fine shreds of carrot and cucumber sat atop tender sweet potatoes and crisp lettuce, with elegantly sliced avocado pear, thinly sliced green apple and a scattering of fresh micro greens. The heroes of the dish were four large crisply-fried falafel, a popular Middle Eastern street food made from ground chick peas, herbs and spices. A spoonful of hummus and a creamy coconut dressing with a slight hint of chilli completed this tasty dish.

A main of chicken schnitzel, French fries and salad, was crisp and freshly made. Although not a classic thinly-pounded schnitzel, and more of a juicy chicken cutlet, George found it appetising.

Chicken schnitzel, salad and French fries.

Other guests were not so lucky. A pan fried steak was found to be ‘off’ and was returned to the kitchen, while two hungry ladies had to wait forty minutes for their wraps to appear. We had all finished eating when the wraps finally arrived, and to add insult to injury, the ladies declared that their wraps tasted like cardboard and were inedible.

Featherlight crepes served with ice cream, whipped cream and maple syrup, went some way to soothing the hunger pangs of those of us whose meals had been substandard. After a well-brewed espresso coffee it was time to make our way to Arundel School, and take our seats in the chapel for Handel’s Messiah.

Fired up by the rousing Hallelujah Chorus and inspired by the orchestra, choir and soloists, we reached home in time to switch on the TV to watch the opening match of World Cup 2022. As luck would have it, the match between Ecuador and Qatar turned out to be a damp squib, with many disappointed Qatari fans leaving early before the end of the game.

The first Sunday of Advent is approaching, and while most of us will be preoccupied with going to Christmas parties, and buying presents for family and friends, we are still mindful of the sacred meaning of Christmas and the need to prepare for the birth of Jesus.   By A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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