Game: take a walk on the wild side!
When Pres Paul Kruger proclaimed South Africa’s two first game reserves - one near Pongola and another between the Sabie and Crocodile rivers - in the 1890s, our wild fauna was in dire straits. Species like the Kwagga and Bloubok were already extinct, rhinos and bontebok teetering on the brink and most other species rare. Largely thanks to this much-maligned old visionary our precious wildlife recovered and is one of our country’s main drawcards. Eco-tourism and trophy hunting are huge, sustainable industries today; garnering a fortune in hard currency and providing work to hundreds of thousands of South Africans. A welcome spin-off is the “biltong hunting” industry, which has brought game within reach of carnivores like me. In this piece I would like to share some thoughts and ideas on the enjoyment of game meat with you, as well as some interesting background information on the fascinating creatures it comes from.
The blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) is a medium-to-large antelope, and one of the three most popular species among South African meat and biltong hunters. They are closely related to the rare Bontebok, which is nowadays confined to a few conservation areas in the Southern Cape. Blesbok were an easy source of meat to the early settlers and were hunted close to extermination by the turn of the century. They originally occurred in the central part of South Africa, mainly on the Highveld and other grassland plains with a relatively cool climate. Due to game farming and the resulting resettling of animals, they now occur in most parts of the country, including the Bushveld.
Blesbok have short, fairly straight, ringed horns - both males and females. They have dark brown necks and backs, and white blazes on their muzzles with a small dash of white between their horns. Blesbok are mainly diurnal animals, i.e. active by day, and feed exclusively on grass. They graze in the mornings and late afternoons, and lie down during the heat of the day. They need plenty of water. A mature specimen can weigh up to 75 kg, with the average around 67 kg. They are gregarious animals that form herds; some consisting only of females with young, and others of bachelor rams. They have the funny trait of walking in single file and shaking their heads as if nodding acceptance. They utter a sharp snorting alarm call when spooked.
Because they are found mainly on game farms, man is currently the blesbok’s main predator. In the wild they are pursued by the lion, cheetah, hyena and their young by jackals. Fully-grown territorial rams compete for the attention of the females, and fight aggressively during mating season to procure the females in their territory. During winter large herds form, led by dominant rams, and containing sub-adult rams and ewes with their young. Usually one lamb is born any time from November to January. The new-born lamb can run with the herd within 30 minutes of being born.
Blesbok meat is a beautiful dark red colour with a medium grain, very tender, with a subtle game taste. As with most venison it is low in fat and high in protein. It is very tender and has a truly unique taste. The leg muscles are also very tender and can be cut into good steaks. Because of its unique taste blesbok should be prepared as naturally as possible – don’t make curries and sweet & sour stir-fries with it! Savoury umami flavours do add value though, as you will experience with this classic recipe.
Blesbok and Mushroom Stroganoff
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Tastes best accompanied by a Merlot or Malbec
300 g Blesbok loin, trimmed and cut into 1 cm thick medallions
250 g Mushrooms; wild ones if possible, otherwise Portobello or brown mushrooms
Zest of ½ fresh lemon
200 g White long grain rice
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 Clove garlic, peeled and crushed
½ Tbsp Cocktail gherkins, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Italian parsley stems, finely chopped
200ml Crème fraiche
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Slice the blesbok medallions into elongated strips.
- Wipe the mushrooms clean and chop them roughly.
- Cook the rice in a heavy-based saucepan until it is still slightly undercooked, and drain it.
- Put the rice back in the pan, cover with aluminium foil and set aside to steam - this will give you incredibly light and fluffy rice.
- Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a generous amount of olive oil.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until softened and golden.
- Remove from the heat and spoon the onions and garlic out of the pan onto a plate. Set aside.
- Season the meat well with salt, pepper and the paprika.
- Rub and massage these flavourings into the meat.
- Place the frying pan back on a high heat and pour in some more olive oil.
- Fry the mushrooms in the oil for a few minutes until they start to brown.
- Add the meat and fry for a minute or 2 before adding the parsley stems and the cooked onion and garlic.
- Toss and add the butter and brandy. You don't have to light the hot brandy, but flaming does give an interesting flavour so I always like to do this.
- Once the flames die down, or after a couple of minutes of simmering, stir in the lemon zest and all but 1 tablespoon of the crème fraiche and season to taste.
- Continue simmering for a few minutes. Any longer than this and the meat will toughen up - it doesn't need long, as it's been cut up so small.
Serve the fluffy rice on 1 big plate and the stroganoff on another. Simply spoon the remaining crème fraiche over the stroganoff, then sprinkle over the sliced gherkins and the parsley leaves.
The Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is the largest and most formidable of the buffalo and cattle tribe (Bovini) that occurs naturally in Africa. It is not very tall—it stands only 130–150 cm tall and has relatively short legs—but it is massive, weighing 425–870 kg. Bulls are about 100 kg heavier than cows, and their horns are thicker and usually wider, up to 100 cm across, with a broad shield (only fully developed at seven years) covering the forehead. This impressive size, coupled with an aggressive response to any threat, means that lions and large crocodiles are the only predators able to kill an adult buffalo. Experienced game rangers and hunters agree: buffalo – along with black rhino and hippo – are the only large animals that do not mock charge. When they charge at you, it is with lethal intent!
The Buffalo thrives in virtually all types of grassland habitat in sub-Saharan Africa, from dry savanna to swamp and from lowland floodplains to montane mixed forest and glades, as long as it is within commuting distance of water (no more than 20 km). To sustain its bulk, the buffalo must eat a lot of grass, and therefore it depends more on quantity than quality. The largest populations occur in well-watered savannas, notably on floodplains bordering major rivers and lakes, where herds of over 1,000 are not uncommon. Although it is immune to some diseases that afflict domestic cattle - in particular, bovine sleeping sickness (nagana) - buffalo are susceptible to cattle-borne diseases. In the 1890s a rinderpest pandemic swept the African continent from Ethiopia to the Cape of Good Hope and killed up to 90 percent of the buffalo, as well as many antelopes.
The buffalo’s habit of eating old grass and trampling it helps to open up these areas to other species by enabling new growth on them. Cape Buffalo are sensitive to heat, and move into the shade during the heat of the day. Much of their feeding takes place at night, and they spend a large proportion of their time ruminating, especially during the dry season when the grass has a higher fibre content. Cape Buffalo are primarily grazers, and like to drink twice a day: they often wade into the water up to their bellies when drinking. The bulls like to wallow in mud, which not only helps keep them cool, but is good for their skin and helps control biting insects. Old bulls who have been bested by younger ones leave the herd and form small bachelor bands who spend their last days together – the so-called “dagga boys”. Lions prey heavily on these old timers.
Buffalo meat is one of the leanest, most nutritious meats around, and can be used for pretty much any purpose you would normally use beef for. Buffalo has a slightly sweeter flavour and doesn’t leave a greasy feel on the palate. It doesn’t smell or taste “gamy” at all. Since buffalo and cattle have the same muscle groups, their texture and tenderness are very similar to each other. Buffalo can be cooked in exactly the same way as the equivalent cut of beef; it will just cook faster than beef. Fat acts as an insulator and slows down the cooking time - be careful not to overcook it.
Because the big risk in cooking buffalo is overcooking, I have decided to negate it by including a recipe that doesn’t require cooking! I know Steak Tartare tends to polarise people, but this piece is not aimed at vegans or a meat-and-potatoes audience. For those who appreciate the charms of top-quality meat, this simple classic made with buffalo will make your palate sing. All it needs is to be put together with thought and care.
Buffalo Steak Tartare
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: what cooking time?
Serves 1 gourmand
Tastes best with a Malbec or Tinta Barroca
200 g Buffalo steak, chopped finely
40 g Shallot, chopped finely
40g Gherkin, chopped finely
1 Egg yolk
The juice of ¼ Lemon
2 Tsp capers
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco (about 6 drops will suffice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
- Combine the steak, shallot, gherkin, capers, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, a little salt and some black pepper and stir gently.
- Transfer the tartare to a plate, neatly in a mound.
- Make a slight hollow in the centre, break the egg yolk into the hollow and serve.
- Season generously, checking the salt and pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce levels as you go.
The Gemsbok or Oryx (Oryx gazella) is native to the arid regions of. Southern Africa. Gemsbok are light brownish-grey to tan in colour, with lighter patches toward the bottom rear of the rump. A blackish stripe extends from the chin down the lower edge of the neck, through the juncture of the shoulder and leg along the lower flank of each side to the blackish section of the rear leg. Gemsbok are the largest species in the Oryx genus. They stand about 1.2 m at the shoulder. Male gemsbok can weigh between 180 and 240 kg, while females weigh 100–210 kg. They have muscular necks and shoulders, and both genders have long, straight horns. In males horns tend to be thicker with larger bases. Females have slightly longer, thinner horns. Female gemsbok use their horns to defend themselves and their offspring from predators, while males primarily use their horns to defend their territories from other males.
These aristocratic animals are mainly grazers but they will browse if there is no grass available. Gemsbok often dig up succulent roots, bulbs and tubers. They eat wild tsamma melons for their water content, and shale to obtain minerals. During summer they graze for long periods at night, when the lower temperatures lead to an increase in the moisture content of the vegetation. They don't seem to be bothered by the extreme heat of the day and don't even try to avoid it. They cope through a mechanism called rete mirabile. Blood flowing to the brain is cooled by heat exchange with blood flowing from the nasal membrane. This process cools the body's heat balance, allowing them to thrive in extreme conditions of the desert.
Gemsbok live in herds of about 10–40 animals, which consist of a dominant bull, a few non-dominant ones, and females. They do appear in larger numbers where the grazing is good. Mature males are territorial but will temporarily join mixed herds containing adult females. They can reach running speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph), and with their formidable horns make a difficult quarry for predators. Lions are the only big cats that kill adults regularly, but calves and juveniles often fall prey to spotted and brown hyenas, leopards and cheetahs.
The meat of a gemsbok is in a class all of its own. It is smooth in texture – easily mistaken for veal because it is light in colour and unbelievably tender. Gemsbok can substituted for veal and free range beef in many traditional recipes. The steaks are succulent, and the rest of the meat is great for goulash, sausage and biltong. My personal favourite gemsbok dish is one of the flagship items on the menu at Pacha’s, the iconic Pretoria restaurant, to which I’ve added a few twists.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Tastes best accompanied by a Malbec or Merlot
1 kg Gemsbok filet or loin, whole
1 Egg, lightly whisked
1 Cup dry bread crumbs
½ Cup crushed Tuc cracker
¾ Cup cake flour
2 Tbsp milk
½ Cup sunflower oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tsp salt
½ Tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Cut the steak into 1.5 cm medallions. Cover them with wax paper and transfer to a chopping board.
- Pound each medallion with a mallet – not too heavily – until its surface area has doubled.
- In a large shallow dish, combine the flour, salt and pepper.
- In a separate shallow bowl, beat together the egg and milk.
- In another shallow dish, combine the bread and cracker crumbs.
- Dredge the steaks in the seasoned flour.
- Dip the steaks in the egg mixture, then coat each steak on both sides with the crumbs. Set aside on a clean plate.
- Refrigerate the steaks for 20 minutes – this will help keep the coating intact.
- Meanwhile heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Place the prepared steaks gently in the hot oil. Fry in batches if the pan isn’t big enough.
- Fry the steaks until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
- Sprinkle each steak lightly with lemon juice.
- Serve with roast potato, morula jelly and seasonal vegetables. If you like sauce with your meats, a mushroom or chasseur sauce will complement the dish perfectly.
The common eland (Taurotragus oryx) is the second largest antelope in the world, being slightly smaller on average than the rare giant eland. An adult male is around 1.6 m tall at the shoulder (females are 20 cm shorter) and can weigh up to 942 kg (2077 lbs) with an average of 500–600 kilograms (340–445 kg for females). The Eland is the slowest of the antelope, but is a very agile jumper and can easily clear two metres in height at a speed of only 40 km/h. Both sexes have horns with a steady spiral ridge. The horns of males are thicker and shorter than those of females, and have a tighter spiral. Males use their horns during rutting season to spar with rivals, while females use their horns to protect their young from predators.
Eland prefer to live in semi-arid areas that contain many shrub-like bushes. They browse during drier winter months, but have also adapted to grazing during the rainy season when grasses are more common. They also love to eat fruit and to dig tubular roots from the ground. Most of their water is obtained from their food, though they will drink water when available. They feed in the morning and evening, rest in shade when hot and remain in sunlight when cold. They are commonly found in herds of up to 500, with individual members remaining in the herd anywhere from several hours to several months. Calves and mothers tend to form larger herds, while males may separate into smaller groups or wander individually. Eland herds are accompanied by a loud clicking sound that has been subject to considerable speculation. It is believed that the weight of the animal causes the two halves of its hooves to splay apart, and the clicking is the result of the hoof snapping together when the animal raises its leg.
The meat of an eland is superb; surprisingly tender and juicy for a free-ranging wild animal. It resembles prime lean beef. The meat is a low fat red meat and very juicy and tender. Eland is a good all-rounder for a variety of recipes. Steaks should be served medium to rare. Eland meat contains about half the calories of beef and six times less fat. Popular dishes include rump and sirloin steaks, goulash and stroganoff cuts of meat for gourmet dishes and mince. It can also be used for making bobotie, meatballs and hamburger patties.
Eland is at its best when prepared simply – the meat comes into its own when lightly seasoned. If you are lucky enough to get hold of eland filet or loin, do yourself a favour and try this one out:
Barbecued Eland Filet with Red Wine Sauce
Preparation time: 8 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Tastes best accompanied by a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz
1.2kg Eland fillet (or loin)
½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
300ml Dry red wine
3 Tsp Steak rub
1 Tsp beef stock powder
8 Fresh garlic cloves
8 Sprigs fresh rosemary
Coarse sea salt and ground black peppercorns
- Coat the filet with oil.
- Mix the salt, pepper and 2 Tbsp of steak rub and thoroughly coat the meat with this mixture.
- Make 6 evenly-spaced small punctures around the meat and insert slivers of garlic and sprigs of rosemary.
- Wrap the meat tightly in cling wrap. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
- Remove the wrapping and braai the filet over low coals, turning every few minutes until medium rare, while preparing the sauce.
- Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add garlic, chopped rosemary and steak spice. When the garlic has browned, sprinkle generously with some cake flour.
- Add the wine and stock powder, stirring continually while the liquid reduces.
- Reduce the sauce by half over medium heat.
- When fillet is ready, cut it into medallions and drizzle a little of the sauce over the meat.
- Serve with roast potatoes and veggies of your choice.
The impala (Aepyceros melampus) – known as a “Bushveld Burger” because it is a staple food among predators - is a medium-sized antelope. Two sub-species of the impala have been recognised: the common impala (A. m. melampus) and the black-faced (A. m. petersi). The black-faced impala is confined to the Kaokoveld (Namibia) and south-western Angola, whereas the common impala is widespread throughout Southern and South-Central Africa. Males stand up to approximately 75–92 cm at the shoulder and weigh 53–76 kg, while females are 70–85 cm and 40–53 kg on average. Both are characterised by a glossy, reddish brown coat. Only the males have the characteristic slender, lyre-shaped horns, which can grow to be 45 – 92 cm long.
Impala inhabit savannah grasslands and woodlands close to water sources, and are diurnal, most active shortly after dawn and before dusk. It is a mixed forager, whose diet consists of both grasses and foliage. It switches between grazing and browsing depending on the season and habitat. Water is an essential requirement. Impala are fast runners and are known for their leaping ability, reaching heights up to 3 m. There are three distinct social groups during the wet season: the female breeding herds, the bachelor herds and the territorial males.
Impala are important prey animals for several carnivores, including lions, leopars, cheetahs, wild dogs and crocodiles. An alert and wary animal, the impala turns motionless on sensing danger. It will scan the vicinity with its eyes to spot the predator, and rotate its ears to catch any tell-tale sounds. When certain of an imminent threat, they warn their kin by means of a loud barking noise.
Impala has bright red meat very low in fat and has a medium grain texture. The meat is very tender and surprisingly juicy, and should be served no more than medium rare. An assortment of dishes can be made of impala, including roast leg or shoulder, casseroles, steaks, rib rack, a variety of “potjies” and very nice schnitzels. I really enjoy this recipe, which can be used to good effect with lamb or veal chops as well.
Pan-seared Impala Chops with Rosemary
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Tastes best accompanied by a Pinotage or Cinsaut
2 Impala saddle or leg chops, about 2.5 - 3 cm thick
2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
200ml Red wine
100ml Mutton stock
2 Tsp ground coriander seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Rub the chops with 1 Tbsp of oil, then the garlic, rosemary, coriander, 1 Tsp salt and ½ Tsp pepper.
- Leave in the refrigerator on a plate for 15 minutes.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180⁰C.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and add remaining oil.
- Place the chops in the pan and cook until golden brown, then turn.
- Transfer them to an oven-proof dish and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Add the wine and stock to the pan and stir up brown bits from bottom.
- Reduce the sauce by at least half while the chops are in the oven.
- Serve the chops with the reduced sauce from the pan.
The chops taste great accompanied by parsnip mash and broccoli.
The kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is one of the most beautiful antelope species, and it is not surprising that the South African National Parks Board chose it as its emblem. They are graceful animals, but very skittish, and prefer the shelter of dense bush, open Knob Thorn savannah and Mopane or Miombo woodlands. Kudu occur all over Southern and East Africa, and are endemic to Angola, Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Kudus are prime examples of sexual dimorphism - bulls bear massive, long, spiral horns which can reach lengths of up to 1.8 m. Bulls can weigh as much as 300 Kg with a shoulder height of 1.4m, and cows weigh 210 Kg with a shoulder height of 1.25m. They have tawny-brown to grey-brown coats, marked with white stripes on the flanks which vary greatly in shape, size and pattern. Manes of long hair extend from the back of the head along the back to the tail, as well as on the lower neck to the belly. Kudu are active around the clock. Their large ears are extremely sensitive to noise, making these shy antelope difficult to approach. Under normal circumstance, kudu will sneak away and hide from potential enemies. When startled, however, they flee with large jumps with their tails rolled upwards and forwards. Kudu often stop and look back after a running for a short distance - a frequently fatal habit. Despite their large size, kudu are accomplished jumpers, with records of heights of over 2.5 meters being cleared with ease.
As a browser this species feeds on a wide variety of tree and shrub leaves, favouring fruits, pods, forbs and creepers when available. Succulents such as Spekboom and Aloes are also eaten. Single calves are born during January-February after a gestation period of nine months. For the first four to six weeks calves lie up in hiding and are visited by their mothers for nursing. Cows and their young form social groups of four to ten. Young cows remain with their mothers' unit, but young bulls form bachelor groups when they reach sexual maturity, normally at two years. Bulls join female herds during mating, but favour other habitats outside of the mating season. Herds disperse during the rainy season when food is plentiful, while as the dry season reaches its peak, they concentrate in favourable areas. Its main predators are lion, wild dogs and leopard.
Kudu meat is delicious - it has a lovely ruby red colour, is tender with a medium grain and a subtle game flavour. It is without doubt one of the best tasting game, and luckily for us there are lots of them, so it is not as though we are eating a threatened species. As with most game, it is a low-fat, low-cholesterol meat, packed full of goodness and flavour. It is very appealing to health conscious people, as it is very low in fat and high in Iron and Protein. I like to marinate my kudu cuts before cooking them. It is not so much a question of adding flavour as ensuring that the meat remains most after cooking. For me, a mixture of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and red wine is more than adequate. For the best effect you should marinate the meat for a minimum of 24 hours. The following recipe has stood the test of time and is really worth trying:
Kudu Sirloin Roast with Sherry Sauce
Preparation time: 24 hours
Cooking time 1 ¾ hours
Tastes best accompanied by a Malbec or Cinsaut
1 Kudu sirloin of around 1 kg
2 Onions, sliced
2 Carrots, chopped
1 Celery stalk, chopped
A bouquet garni consisting of 2 bay leaves and a sprig each of thyme, sage and parsley
4 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
6 Peppercorns, cracked
200ml Olive oil
100ml Lemon juice
1 Tsp mustard powder (or crushed seeds)
½ Tsp paprika
½ Tsp Cayenne pepper
150ml Medium Cream Sherry
1 Tsp salt
- Place all the ingredients in a Tupperware container or Ziploc bag, along with the roast.
- Allow to marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator before cooking.
- Start by searing the roast on all sides in a very hot pan.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 160⁰C.
- Transfer the roast and vegetables from the marinade to an oven dish, and place it in the oven.
- Cook for 1 hour – 50 minutes for a rarer roast.
- Remove the meat and let it rest.
- To make a gravy, combine the Sherry and cooking juices in a small pot on the stove top.
- Reduce the gravy by a third over high heat while you carve the meat.
- Pass the gravy through a sieve before serving it in a gravy vessel.
Serve the kudu with roast potato, cream spinach and caramelised baby carrots
The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a small- to medium-sized brown and white antelope which inhabits the dry inland areas of southern and south-western Africa. The name "springbok" is derived from the Afrikaans words spring = jump and bok = antelope. It is extremely fast and can reach speeds of 90 km/h and can leap 4 m through the air. It is this athleticism that led to our rugby administrators choosing it as the emblem of the national side.
In South Africa, springbok inhabit the vast grasslands of the western Free State and the open scrublands of the Great Karoo and Namaqualand. They inhabit most of Namibia – the grasslands of the south, the Kalahari Desert to the east, the dry riverbeds of the Central region, and even the harsh Namib Desert on the west coast. In Botswana, they mostly live in the Kalahari in the south-western and central parts of the country. They used to be very common, forming some of the largest herds of mammals ever documented, but their numbers have diminished significantly since the 19th century due to hunting and fences from farms blocking their migratory routes.
Springboks are slender, long-necked antelopes, with horns present in both sexes. Adults are between 70 and 90 cm tall at the shoulder, depending on weight and gender, and can weigh between 30 and 44 kg (females) and 33 and 48 kg (males). Their colouring consists of a pattern of white, reddish/tan and dark brown. Their backs are tan-coloured and they are white beneath, with a dark brown stripe extending along each side from the shoulder to inside the thigh. The face is white in adults, with a dark patch on the forehead, and a stripe running from just above the eyes to the corner of the mouth. The hooves and horns are black, and the tail is white with a black tuft at the tip.
Springbok are mixed feeders, switching between grazing and browsing seasonally. When grasses are fresh, they mostly graze, but during the long dry season they browse on shrubs and succulents. Springbok can meet their water needs from the food they eat, and survive without drinking water for months, or even over years. Springbok gather together in the wet seasons and spread out during the dry season, an unusual trait among African animals. Springbok are mainly active around dawn and dusk, although they may feed through the day in colder weather, or through the night at particularly hot times of the year. During the summer, they sleep in the shade of trees or bushes, although they often bed down in the open when the weather is cooler. Bachelor males and females form separate herds, and these groups are normally kept separate by territorial rams, which round up female herds that enter their territories and keep out the bachelors.
Springbok often go into bouts of repeated high leaps of up to 2 m into the air in a practice known as "pronking" - Afrikaans: pronk, to show off). While pronking, the Springbok repeatedly leaps into the air in a particular stiff-legged posture, with its back bowed and the white fantail lifted. While the exact cause of this behaviour is unknown, springbok exhibit this activity when they are nervous or otherwise excited. One theory is pronking is meant to indicate to predators that they have been spotted. Another is the springbok show off their individual strength and fitness so the predator will go for another (presumably weaker) member of the group. Leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and lions are the springbok's primary predators. Pythons occasionally take springboks, while black-backed jackals, caracals and eagles often take their lambs.
Springbok is one of the finest meats available. It tastes very refined; this is because its herbal diet of various grass and leaf kinds. Fresh meat is a beautiful red colour, fine in texture and low in fat, with a delicate flavour gained from wild herbs and natural grasses. It has typically half the fat and three quarters of the cholesterol of beef. The following recipe hails from the Karoo, and works equally well with springbok or small lamb.
Slow-cooked Leg of Springbok, Karoo style
Preparation time: 24 hours
Cooking time: 2 ½ hours
Tastes best accompanied by a mature Shiraz
1 Leg of springbok, bone in. All-in weight should not exceed 2 ½ kg.
At least 2l of Buttermilk
2 Large onions, chopped
1 Tbsp dried cling peach, finely chopped
1 Tbsp back bacon, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
500ml Lamb stock (keep it hot)
175ml Dry red wine
½ Cup cake flour
½ Tsp ground coriander
2 Tsp salt
1 Tsp ground black pepper
- Marinate the springbok leg for 24 hours in enough buttermilk to cover it.
- Rinse the meat under cold running water, and let it drip dry.
- Brown the meat in the butter in a large saucepan.
- Add the bacon bits, and fry briefly.
- Add the onions and sauté them until they become translucent.
- Transfer to a suitable-sized pot or Dutch oven, scraping out all the liquids.
- Sprinkle the meat and onions with some cake flour.
- Add the hot stock and the remaining ingredients.
- Simmer for about 2 hours (or longer, if need be. The meat must be almost fall-off-the bone tender).
- Remove the meat from the pot and slice it.
- Thicken the remaining sauce with a paste made from a little flour mixed with some of the hot sauce.
Serve with samp or mashed potato, morogo (or spinach) and pumpkin fritters.
Warthogs (Phacochoerus aethiopicus) are widely distributed, and presently not threatened in South Africa. They are also found in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. Common warthogs do not have subcutaneous fat and the coat is sparse, making them susceptible to the extreme cold of the Highveld. They occur in open savannah around water holes and marshy areas throughout their range. Warthogs can frequently be found at waterholes where they dig in the marsh and wallow in the mud with obvious enthusiasm. The warthog is a medium-sized species; their shoulder height is from 45 to 85 cm. Females are typically a bit smaller and lighter in weight than males, at 45 to 70 kg, compared to 60 to 100 kg. A warthog is identifiable by the two pairs of tusks protruding from the mouth and curving upwards. The tusks are used for digging, for combat with other hogs, and in defence against predators – the lower set can inflict severe wounds.
These wild pigs are diurnal animals and spend most of their time looking for food. They are normally found in family groups. Warthogs have the peculiar habit of kneeling on the front knees while feeding and foraging in a localised area. The common warthog is the only pig species that has adapted to grazing and a savannah habitat. Its diet is omnivorous, composed of grasses, roots, berries and other fruits, bark, fungi, insects, eggs and carrion. During the dry season, they subsist on bulbs and nutritious roots. Warthogs are powerful diggers, using both their snouts and feet.
Warthogs are not territorial, but instead occupy a home range. Common warthogs live in groups called sounders. Females live in sounders with their young and with other females. They shelter in burrows at night, which they enter tail first. Socially, three main groups are encountered, namely solitary boars, bachelor groups and matriarchal groups. Matriarchal groups consist of adult sows with their young and yearlings. The young may be taken by Eagles and Jackal with Lion, Hyena, Cheetah, Leopard and Crocodile being the main enemies of the adults. Although capable of fighting fiercely, the common warthog's primary defence is to flee by means of fast sprinting – they are capable of 40 km/h dashes. The common warthog's main predators are lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. Cheetahs are also capable of catching warthogs of up to their own weight. A female common warthog with any piglets will defend them very aggressively. On occasion, common warthogs have been observed charging and even wounding large predators.
Since the warthog is a relative of the pig, one would expect it to taste a little porky. In actual fact it looks and tastes more like light-coloured venison than pork. Warthog is a game meat and, like most game meats, it will have a stronger flavour and leaner meat than its domesticated cousin. The leanness can cause a slight problem as the meat will tend to become a little dry when cooked, so it benefits from marinating and/or slightly moister cooking methods. Also, as with most meats, the loin areas will tend to be tenderer and the legs and shoulders will be tougher and may need longer slower cooking. Perhaps more people would like it if menus stopped referring to warthog as “Pumbaa”!
The one cut of warthog which is universally popular is its spare ribs. Try and get the ribs of a sub-adult hog; they are divine! Here is how I make it:
Barbecue Warthog Spare Ribs
Preparation time: 12 hours
Cooking time: 3 ½ hours
Tastes best accompanied by a Tinta Barroca or Shiraz
2 Small racks of warthog spare ribs (around 500 g each)
4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ Tsp chopped chilli
1 Tbsp dark soya sauce
1 Tbsp Hoy Sin (Chinese BBQ) sauce
½ Tsp ground cloves
¼ Tsp ground cinnamon
¼ Tsp ground allspice
½ Tsp ground ginger
1 Tsp brown sugar
2 Tsp salt
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
- Brush the ribs with the marinade and place the ribs in a Ziploc bag.
- Expel most of the air from the bag, seal it and place in the refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 140℃.
- Remove the ribs from their plastic covers. Cover the ribs with aluminum foil and seal the edges tight.
- Place the parcels on a baking sheet and into the pre-heated oven. Cook for 3 hours.
- After three hours remove the ribs from the foil and paper.
- Let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Baste the ribs again with some of the left-over marinade.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and switch the oven to grill.
- Place the baking sheet with ribs in the middle of your oven and grill for 10 minutes until the basting is caramelised.
- Cut the ribs into smaller sections and serve with the starch of your choice.Send to Email Address Your Name
The Blue Wildebeest or Gnu (Connochaetes taurinus) are widely distributed through the grasslands and savannah of Southern and East Africa. They are famous for their annual migrations, during which over 1.5 million wildebeest undertake the approximately 2,700 km round trip from the Serengeti plains of Tanzania to the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. They are very adaptable animals, thriving in both sub-tropical Zululand and the dry Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Blue Wildebeest are much larger and heavier than the Black Wildebeest and their horns curve to the side outwards and then up, unlike the horns of Black Wildebeest that curve downward, forward and then upwards from the front. Blue Wildebeest have a black mane and tail while Black Wildebeest have whitish tails and manes. Black Wildebeest only occur on the Highveld, and the two species seldom overlap.
Bulls are slightly higher at the shoulder and heavier than the cows. The horns of the bulls are on average larger, heavier and more robust than the horns of the female. The heaviest Blue Wildebeest weighed, was a bull found in the Kruger National Park with a mass of 307.5 kilograms. Blue Wildebeest are diurnal and are most active during the cooler parts of the day, seeking shade in the heat of day. They are highly gregarious, usually found in herds of about 20 to thirty mainly females and young with a bull as leader. They can number from a few individuals up to hundreds and even thousands, in some areas, during migrations and in breeding season.
Blue Wildebeest are primarily grazers, showing a preference for short green grass. For this reason they often mingle with zebras, which also graze on plains grass but are adapted to eat longer, tougher grass. The wildebeest’s main predators are the lion, leopard, spotted hyena, wild dog, cheetah and crocodiles. Territorial bulls defend the cows around their territory; however cows tend to move through various territories. Bachelor herds are usually found around edges of larger breeding herds. Blue Wildebeest tend to move seasonally after grazing and water.
Wildebeest is a low fat red meat which is exceptionally tender and juicy. Just like other antelope, their meat is rich, red and succulent. In fact, it has the look and texture of well hung beef. It is low in fat - 97% fat free to be exact - high in protein, high in iron and low in cholesterol. Due to its low fat content, it is best cooked rare to medium rare – any more, and the meat will dry out and lose its texture and flavour. The taste: is robust and finely textured with a depth of flavour akin to dark, dry-matured beef. The dark-red colour of the flesh points to a high iron content, so wildebeest meat is also great energy booster.
My recommended recipe is this classic from Burgundy. Boeuf Bourguignon elevates the simple stew to an art form and – despite the lengthy directions – is quite simple to make. As the wine is a key part of the final product, you should use a wine that you would drink -- not “cooking wine”. And the better the cut of meat, the better the stew.
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 4 hours
Tastes best accompanied by the same (or similar) wine used for the marinade
For the stew:
1.5 kg Wildebeest topside or silverside
200 g Bacon lardons
1 Medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 Medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Sprig fresh thyme
1 Fresh bay leaf
2 Tbsp cake flour
750ml Red wine – Pinot Noir is traditional, but I quite like Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend with this dish
750ml Beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tsp salt
¼ Tsp pepper, freshly ground
1 Tbsp olive oil
For the braised onions:
18 White pearl onions, peeled
1 Bay leaf
1 Sprig thyme
2 Sprigs parsley
1 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
150ml Beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Sautéed Mushrooms:
450 g Portobello mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
- Simmer the lardons for ten minutes in 1l of water.
- Drain and dry the lardons and reserve.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
- Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole and warm over moderate heat.
- Sauté the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
- Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
- Dry the pieces of beef and sauté them in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.
- Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.
- In the same oil/fat, sauté the onion and the carrot until softened.
- Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.
- Season the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.
- Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
- Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
- Now, lower the heat to 180°C and remove the casserole from the oven.
- Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is just covered.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.
- Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
- Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly, for three to four hours.
- The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.
- Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and place the onions in the skillet.
- Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible.
- Pour in the stock, season to taste, add the herbs, and cover.
- Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape.
- Remove the herbs and set the onions aside.
- For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large saucepan.
- As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and shake the pan for about five minutes.
- As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from the heat.
- When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven.
- Empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.
- Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it.
- Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.
- Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for 1 – 2 minutes, skimming any additional fat off the surface.
- You should be left with about 2 – 2 ½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
- If the sauce is too thick, add a little stock.
- If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
- If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.
The Plains zebra (Equus quagga), also known as Burchell’s zebra is one of three zebra species along with the mountain zebra and Grevy's zebra. A fourth species, the Quagga, became extinct in the late 19th Century. The plains zebra and the mountain zebra belong to the subgenus Hippotigris, but Grévy's zebra is the sole species of subgenus Dolichohippus. The latter resembles an ass, to which it is closely related, while the former two are more horse-like. The common plains zebra is about 1.3 m at the shoulder, and can weigh up to 350 kg, males being slightly bigger than females. A wide variety of hypotheses have been proposed to account for the evolution of the striking stripes of zebras:
- The stripes may help the zebra hide in the grass by blurring its shape.
- The stripes may help to confuse predators — a group of zebras standing or moving close together may appear as one large mass of flickering stripes, making it more difficult for the lion to pick out a target.
- Since the striping pattern is unique to each individual, the stripes may serve as visual cues and identification.
- Experiments by different researchers indicate that the stripes are effective in attracting fewer flies, including tsetse flies and horseflies.
- Stripes may also be used to cool the zebra, as air moves more quickly over black light-absorbing stripes while moving more slowly over white stripes.
Zebras are diurnal, and feed almost entirely on grasses. They may however occasionally eat shrubs, herbs, twigs, leaves and bark as well. Their digestive systems allow them to subsist on diets of lower nutritional quality than that necessary for other herbivores. Like most members of the horse family, zebras are highly social. They live in groups, known as 'harems', consisting of one stallion with up to six mares and their foals. Bachelor males either live alone or with groups of other bachelors until they are old enough to challenge a breeding stallion. When attacked by packs of hyenas or wild dogs a zebra group will huddle together with the foals in the middle while the stallion tries to ward them off. They are generally slower than horses, but their great stamina helps them outrun predators. When chased, a zebra will zig-zag from side to side, making it more difficult for the predator to attack. When cornered, the zebra will rear up and kick or bite its attacker.
Zebras have excellent eyesight. It is believed that they can see in full colour. Like most equines, the zebra's eyes are on the sides of its head, giving it a wide field of view. Zebras also have good night vision, although not as advanced as that of most of their predators. Zebras also have excellent hearing and have larger, rounder ears than horses; like other ungulates, zebras can turn their ears in almost any direction. In addition to superb eyesight and hearing, zebras also have acute senses of smell and taste. Like horses, zebras sleep standing up, and only sleep when neighbours are around to warn them of predators. Zebras communicate with each other with high-pitched barks and whinnying.
Zebra meat is quite popular in Europe. Contrary to popular belief, it tastes nothing like horse. I am of the opinion that it tastes more like a sweeter version of veal with a touch of venison flavour to it. As with most game meat, zebra is very lean, low fat and tastes excellent. It is pale pink like veal and has a very subtle flavour. Cook it like you would cook a nice piece of filet, and under no circumstances go any further than medium rare. If you want to be really bold, try it as a carpaccio. The following recipe would probably be a hit at Nkandla: Africa strongly influenced by China!
Teriyaki Zebra Filet with Vegetable Stir Fry and Coconut Rice
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Tastes best accompanied by a Tinta Barroca or Malbec
2 Zebra filets, approximately 150g each
2 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
A little olive oil
The vegetable stir-fry:
6 Baby sweet corn cobs
1 Bok Choi, sliced
½ Red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
A 15 cm long ginger root, thinly sliced
1 Carrot, thinly sliced
2 Deseeded and thinly sliced Thai chillies
8 Small oyster mushrooms (or 4 big ones sliced in half)
Sunflower oil for frying
The coconut rice:
130g Jasmine rice
130g Coconut milk
½ Tsp salt
- First make the coconut rice by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan and bringing to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for approx. 10 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Cover with a lid and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
- Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan over high heat.
- Stir fry the vegetables for around 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat a separate frying pan until it is smoking hot.
- Oil the steaks, then cook them for 5 minutes each side. The outsides should be crisp and golden, but the insides still pale pink.
- Remove the steaks from the pan and leave them to rest for a couple of minutes.
- Once cool, carve them into 1cm thick strips.
- Mix the teriyaki ingredients in a bowl. Return the steaks to the hot pan and add the teriyaki sauce.
- Bring the mixture to a fierce boil, then serve immediately.