Earlier on this year I attended the wedding of a family friend in Cape Town, South Africa. It was a lovely trip, and it was nice to travel with my mum and have a bit of a girly holiday. We spent languid days, enjoying the most stunning views of Table Mountain, eating, having spa days in our room, exploring the outdoor markets, and exhibitions, and just having a fabulous time.
On our way back to Lagos, we had a bit of time to kill at the Johannesburg Airport, and after we had had something to eat, we found ourselves in the meat shop. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not one to carry meat from one country to another. I know people who have been hauling M&S sausages back to Lagos for years and I honestly don’t understand how they can live like that. If I tell myself that I only eat meat from x or y place that involves a plane ride, imagine the anxiety when I run out. And with my life where I am often cooking for a number of people at very short notice, I like to have some flexibility, and source as much as I can locally.
My philosophy is usually to find the best meat wherever you are, and make the best of it. What I usually buy when I travel are condiments, seasonings, and versatile extras that will lift the countenance of anything you find at home Condiments are also easier to transport and you don’t have to worry about customs controls, etc. To me that is the strategic thing to do. With quality complimentary items, you can elevate anything you find to superstar status. As a cook, that is of more value to me, and so I had stocked up on condiments really well, and packed them carefully in my suitcase.
But this time, something came over me in that shop. I think it started with the ostrich steaks. When I looked at them, all burgundy and brimming with potential, I felt my saliva glands pop, and there was a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. The sound in my ear that accompanied that was like someone plucked a string on a guitar. I picked up two packs. And then the boerwors sausages. They looked good too. I had a brief memory of the first time I had boerwors, on Uncle Samuel and Aunty Ireti’s back porch in Sandton, and I swear, a bit of that barbecue smoke from 2008 curled past my nose. When I looked down, the sausages were in my basket and my hands had discovered the ribs. My favourite kind. Short, succulent, and one of the few ways I enjoy pork. Those went in the basket too. And then there was smoked trout, which just gave the general impression of being amenable. By this stage, I was heavily invested and flung a few randoms in for good measure – spontaneity in the shops is a good thang – so the zebra pate, impala pate, and wasabi mayonnaise were added to the equation.
A small fortune later, mum and I were on the plane with our loot. There was one irritant of a ground crew attendant who tried to take our meaty cargo off us and ‘put it in the hold’ but we bared our teeth at him and reported him to a cabin attendant, who very firmly told him to stand down. Put it in the hold indeed. That’s how we would have landed in Lagos and everyone would have been looking askance, pretending not to know where the big bag of meat went.
So on one particular Sunday when the feeling was right and the stress of Lagos had built up to such a point that we felt we needed a treat, we brought out our loot and laid on the lunch of all lunches. Here are a few pictures from the prep and the final enjoyment.
The smoked trout got curled, and then I made a bed of beetroot carpaccio and goats cheese to lay it on. Then I scattered on some freshly ground black pepper, and some lemon infused olive oil, as well. The ribs came already seasoned, which was fabulous. I cooked them as they were. I almost never do that, but this time, I was glad I did.
The ribs, once cooked, were sticky and succulent, and falling off the bone.
The ostrich steaks, seasoned with olive oil, fine sea salt and black pepper.
I cooked these in my fave griddle pan for 2 minutes on each side, and then I sauteed chopped garlic in a knob of butter and drizzled that over it just before serving. It was out of this world delicious.
This chicken was bought here in Lagos and I double marinated it. The green stuff you see peeking through, you can find here. And then over the top of that I mixed yoghurt and tandoori spice and slathered it on, then baked in the oven on a bed of onions. The resultant gravy had us singing at table.
I added some vine tomatoes to roast with the chicken. You can see the onions have vanished; melted away to become an aromatic gravy, which went so well with the sweet potato mash. The chicken skin was nice and crispy too! You can see the big salad peeking through at the back, because no meal is complete without one.
This mash was live. To make it, boil your sweet potatoes really soft, in 1 inch cubes, and then drain the water away. Mash with a masher or chuck in a food processor with a generous knob of butter and some salt. Yummy yum yum!
Sawseejis! Not too much to do to these. These are wicked when thrown on the barbecue but alas I don’t have a barbecue (it’s on my wish list) so I made do by letting the pan get super hot and then cooking them high and fast.
I really liked the flavour of these, with the warm spices like cumin, nutmeg, mixed spice, etc. To serve I just sprinkled with some spring oninons, nice and easy.
For dessert, I made these mango puddings. The concept for these was that we had eaten a shed load of meat, and so I didn’t think it was proper to then have a senselessly decadent dessert. I wanted dessert to be functional and conceptual. In this case, I wanted it to be a digestive aid, so I made a pudding with mangoes, coconut milk, coconut shavings, tumeric and mint to help the meal along. *Cough, cough, wink, wink*.
In all, it was a fabulous lunch. And I would so love to do it again. What I want to do as well is a separate post on the mango pudding recipe, and then a quick one on how to successfully cook ostrich. Stay tuned for those. Hope you enjoyed this post. Have you ever had a proper braai before? What’s your favourite thing about them?