Potassium permanganate reminds me more of chemistry than domestic science lessons. But Head Chef, Cephus, taught me how to make salad safe in a very hot climate. https://youtu.be/ySvfk61wL4E
I was at the wonderfully eclectic and renowned Latitude 13 Hotel www.latitudehotels.com in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, in Africa: cooking under the shade of a huge tree beside children joyously romping in the swimming pool. It was part of my prize-winning tour: cooking across six continents.
We were making a haloumi salad but first needed to ensure that the lettuce was bacteria-free. Even when food is locally grown, if there isn’t enough refrigeration between the farm and hotel kitchen, the heat can create a breeding ground for bugs. Consequently, our first step was to dissolve the potassium permanganate in water to create a purplish bath in which to soak the lettuce to kill off any bacteria. Once rinsed, there’s no difference in taste but a much safer salad.
Cephus is a great advocate for local farmers and food producers. He had devised his own version of polenta using “sema”: the traditional maize flour porridge-style dish that features at nearly every Malawian meal. For this cooking session, he was using local haloumi which he fried to give a crispy coat to the cheese. He added more texture with homemade vegetable crisps: beetroot, carrot and butternut squash. The whole dish was topped with a magnificent cooked dressing using the pulp of passion fruit (or granadillas as they are known locally).
Salad sounds simple but this was far more sophisticated.