Plum Crumble and our Adventure in Uganda

Delicious Italian Prune Plums and Cassis Liquor take centre stage in this Plum Crumble

This recipe for Plum Crumble is inspired by the Plum Crunch recipe in the Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics cookbook.  I reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe and substituted crunchy flax ball cereal for the walnuts (as I have a tree nut allergy).

I love the addition of crème de cassis to the Plum Crumble. Crème de cassis is a sweet, dark red liqueur from France that is made from blackcurrants. The cassis adds a new level of flavour to the plums and really does take it up a notch. Besides, I always like to add  a little alcohol to dessert!

Italian prune plums are a delicious fall treat

I did not write too much about our trip to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, last week in my Plum Date Balsamic Spread post so I thought I would share more about the eye opening experience that we had this week.

I booked our week in Uganda back in February to ensure us a permit to track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  There are three families of gorillas that tourists can visit and less than thirty permits are granted per day (according to the Bwindi National Park site). We were lucky to get a permit to track the largest family in the park (17 gorillas) and were doubly lucky that one of the gorillas had given birth just three weeks before.

Map of UgandaAfter spending two nights at the lovely Speke Resort on Lake Victoria we were picked up by our guide, Jack, and set off on our week long adventure.  The 11-hour drive to Bwindi was certainly an adventure!  Although the distance between Kampala and Bwindi is less than 500 kilometers it takes 11-hours due to the poor conditions of the roads.

The roads were unbelievable, but not as unbelievable as the number of children on the side of the roads. Each house we drove by (and there were a lot of houses) seemed to have half a dozen small children milling about. According to the 2014 estimates from the CIA World Factbook, the fertility rate in Uganda is 5.96 births per woman and approximately 49% of its population is between the ages of 0 and 14  years of age and approximately 70% of is population is under 24 years of age with an average of 15.5 years.  If those statistics do not point to a population problem, I do not know what does.

Chickens strapped to the top of a taxi in Kampala
Chickens strapped to a taxi in Kampala

Back to the vacation…. We arrived at the Gorilla Lodge, where we would stay for two nights experiencing fantastic food and solitude.  The Gorilla Lodge was a tented camp and we had it to ourselves, as we would come to realize was par for our vacation. The next morning the gorilla trekking day was finally here!  After a short video and talk from the park ranger, we drove to the start of the trek, about half an hour away.  Our group of nine tourists set off at about 9:30am with one guide, three porters and two men armed with machine guns.‎ We climbed for about an hour before we received radio contact from the two early morning trekkers that they had found the gorillas. These two men had started tracking the gorillas at 5:30am that morning as the gorillas can move up to 10 kilometers during the day and night.  After 30 more minutes of climbing through the jungle we arrived at our destination.

Deep in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest were the family of mountain gorillas
Deep in this jungle were the mountain gorillas!

There, right in front of us, was the silverback gorilla!

Silverback Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi

Before the trek we were warned to stay seven meters back from the gorillas to prevent unnecessary diseases to be passed from the gorilla to us or vice versa. That said, we were some three meters from the silverback and a stupid French lady tried to get even closer before getting a rise out of the animal. A definite highlight of the hour that we viewed the gorillas were the glimpses that we had of the three week old baby. Apparently it is quite rare to view anything more than an arm before three months but we lucked out and saw the baby climbing all over its mom!

Three week old baby gorilla with its mom in Uganda

The hour flew by and with fourteen minutes remaining we went to watch ‎the gorillas in the trees. The four gorillas in the trees were very active with the highlight being one gorilla peeing into another gorilla’s mouth. With the hour over we left the gorillas in the forest and headed back to our vehicle. We did not escape a torrential downpour and we were quite wet and cold when we got back.

Following the gorilla hike, we were fortunate to get another free bum massage the next day on our way to a small town in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. For much of this drive we were approximately 100 meters from one of the least hospitable countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Throughout the drive we were holding our breath that nothing would go wrong with the 1985 jeep that had 450,000kms on it. These fears were expedited later in the afternoon when we started to hear a funny noise coming from the bottom of the vehicle!  Luckily we made it to our hotel, the Kingfisher Lodge.  Once again, we were the only guests staying at the Kingfisher Lodge! The Kingfisher was an okay hotel with a breathtaking view of the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

View from the Kingfisher Lodge
The spectacular view from the Kingfisher Lodge overlooking Queen Elizabeth National Park

We went on three separate game drives in the park. In approximately 15 hours we saw 150 impalas, 10 lions, 8 elephants, 5 water bucks, 3 hippos and zero leopards. This may sound fantastic, let us assure that it was not. It took 30 minutes to see this much in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania! We also went on a walk through a forest to spot chimpanzees. This too, was not as I had hoped. The chimpanzees were so high up in the trees and so far away that we really did not get a good look at them. Secretly, I was hoping that I would be able to hold one of the chimps ;)

Lions at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

The best part of the tour in Queen Elizabeth National park was the hour long boat ride that we took on the Kazinga Channel between Lake Albert and Lake Edward.  We saw lots of hippos, water buffaloes and crocodiles and thoroughly enjoyed the time on the water.

Hippos, water buffaloes and crocodiles in Uganda

Another 8-hours in the car and we were back in Kampala for the evening.  The next day we made the two hour drive to the city of Jinja, where we took a short boat ride to the “source” of the Nile River, i.e. where Lake Victoria stops and the Nile begins. In Jinja we stayed at the Sunset International Hotel, which I would highly recommend avoiding. Yes, that is right, avoid it. The trip to Jinja was a bit of a bust, as we had planned to go whitewater rafting on the Nile. Upon further research after discussing the activity with our driver, we opted out of the rafting due to the possibility of encountering poisonous snakes and crocodiles, not to mention contracting Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection. Instead, we played a round of golf at the Jinja Golf Club, a small nine hole course on the banks of the Nile.

And that is it folks!  We loved seeing the mountain gorillas in Uganda and had quite an adventure. I have compiled a short list of recommendations for someone considering a trip to Uganda to see mountain gorillas:

  • Consider visiting Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park instead of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as the trekking starts about an hour and a half away from the international airport in Kigali as opposed to the 11-hour drive we experienced from Kampala to Bwindi.
  • Get in and get out – there is not much else to do in Uganda so do not be fooled by promises of fantastic game drives. I would highly recommend a quick flight to Tanzania or Kenya if you would like to go on a safari.
  • If you are staying at the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, consider the Mweya Safari Lodge.  We stopped at this lodge to buy tickets for a boat tour in the Kazinga Channel between Lake Albert and Lake Edward and were disappointed that we were not spending the night as well!
  • If you like wine, pick up a couple of bottles of duty free wine at the airport before getting to Uganda to enjoy in Bwindi. Unless you are staying at the luxury hotels, there is no wine available and what is available is very expensive.
  • Take some clothes to give away to the children that you encounter in the remote villages. School supplies are also appreciated. We wished many times that we had done this.
  • Do not stay at the Sunset International Hotel in Jinja. It is supposed to be a mid-range hotel, but I would consider it to be a poor budget hotel at best.
  • Take warm clothes and rain gear. Even though Uganda straddles the equator (which you can visit), due to the high altitude in parts of the country we were quite cold. We wore pants and long sleeves most days and wished a number of times that we had brought rain jackets with us.
  • If you like games, take some to play in the evenings. We took cards and travel monopoly. Monopoly was a big hit with our drive and we taught him to play on the last night while enjoying pizza a beer on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Plum Crumble
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious italian prune plums and creme de cassis liqueur take centre stage in this Plum Crumble! A fantastic fall dessert.
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 5 cups prune plums, pitted and quartered
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur

    Topping:
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup crunchy flax ball cereal
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, diced into small squares
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the prune plums, brown sugar, flour and cassis in a 8x8 glass baking dish.
  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, salt, oats, flax balls and butter with a pastry blender, two forks or your hands. Alternatively, you could combine with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  4. Pour the topping over the prune plums and pat down gently with your hands.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the plum juice is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

    Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt!
Notes
If prune plums are not available, you can substitute regular plums.

 

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