After touch-down in SA and making the 2 hour drive home, conversation turned to what we were eating the next couple of days. My folks had high hopes of fine food coming their way; I had high and quite definite hopes of a braai every single night of my stay. It wasn’t hard to convince them that lamb chops were obligatory on the first night home – I had been in cold and wet England (“now you’ve seen for yourself that they don’t have a clue what good meat is over there”) and that alone was reason to take pity on me – so I rode it. Obviously the chops were from the Karoo and they were stellar – ’nuff said.
The following week or so at home unusual ingredients started appearing in the fridge – upon enquiry, I was told that this and that was a gift (I love this country custom) and also our next dinner, so what were we going to do with it? The kitchen saw crocodile goulash (?) pieces – they quickly got skewered, crocodile tail and loin, roast ostrich fillet, ostrich neck stew, octopus salad, octopus Galician style, a whole Yellowtail (a local fish) etc. After day 4 my youngest sibling put in a meek request for chicken, which we thankfully had to cook anyway, as we had an Egyptian lunch guest with special dietary requirements.
Although this was out of the ordinary and a little rough on the family, it had me thinking about all the different ingredients I have worked with only over the last couple of weeks. Of the more unusual animals I saw at St John were Woodcock, Snipe and Hare, all products of the game season (pretty much over now). I know that serious game afficionado’s start hyperventilating at the beginning of Game Season in anticipation of their first grouse or roast woodcock/snipe on toast, but whilst prepping them (woodcock and snipe) I cannot help but wonder why. The hunter’s thrill of having been able to shoot the bird in the first place (without damaging it too much as this lowers the selling price) seems to have been transferred to quite a few very exitable foodies. They are way too tiny to eat! (And everyone criticises the Romans for their legendary love of Thrushes in Honey…)
I digress. I wanted to talk about the hare, which I have worked with before, to create Hare Pappardelle, one of my favourite dishes. The animal itself is very active, which accounts for the really bloody flesh, but that’s to the product’s advantage – it’s blood is used in most traditonal hare recipes. Jugged hare for example (no mystical thing – hare portions cooked in a jug in a pan of boiling water, and thickened with its own blood at completion.) I like hare, because I like that particular gamey taste – it reminds me of when my father returned from hunting trips in the Karoo and Namibia when I was younger. The larger parts of eland, gemsbok, springbok and kudu were all turned to biltong, and mom cooked the rest down to fyn wildsvleis (fine game stew).
We’re braaiing again tonight (no sniggering in the back, its SA so its ok), so all’s going well, now all I have to do is hold out a few days to ensure the crocodile tail doesn’t come my way before I leave the country again. If you must know, its not like chicken, and its not like fish, its just…like crocodile I suppose, and not very exciting at all. (If you want to eat a reptile, catch a snake methinks)
Would’ve been good as a Tuesday night dinner if it wasn’t so expensive. More to the point, if you really want to make cash out of them, sew a nice handbag.