Make a meal of meat
I have traversed the Karoo - that arid patch of nothingness more or less in the middle of our country - many times.
And to view the Karoo in such a way is absolutely incorrect and simply a way of pulling you, my dear reader, into my story.
Firstly, the Karoo is not a patch. In fact, the square mileage (I know it’s supposed to be kilometers, but call me old fashioned) is vast. Then, the Karoo might appear to be full of nothingness, but nothing could be further from the truth. Big sky, and more. Stars at night, like diamonds scattered on dark velvet. And then, when you walk, an entire universe of life unfolds itself - the rustle of a tortoise, the flap of the wings of an eagle.
Cooking and devouring meat is one of our national pastimes. The reason for my focus on the Karoo is that a tender fillet of beef is almost incomparable, but lamb really does it for me every time.
But my beef-eating friends tell me that when the craving hits you nothing else will do. You know the one: arriving at your table and in front of you, a juicy, sizzling, tender piece of fillet, perfectly formed and fabulously grilled.
A good steak is not a rare treat in South Africa. We boast some of the best beef in the business. So much so that we have competitions that celebrate the quality of our meat, the purveyors of the best, and restaurants that boast many local as well as international accolades.
Along with that we have braai awards, biltong awards and just about everything else that celebrates the juice that arrives in our jowls when we talk about our favourite meals, whether they be organic, milk-fed, herb-munching or even massaged.
We as a nation rave about a rare fillet. Or a well done leg of lamb or, if you will, a meltingly delicious belly of pork.
Our rainbow of nations produces a colourful choice of cuisines. Imagine a tender Lamb Khorma (curry) in Durban, or a delightfully pink lamb chop in the Karoo, a Malay minced-beef bobotie in the Cape, or in the Natal Midlands, that beef that is better than the best. With ‘pap’ (a porridge of sorts made of maize meal), and a good gravy, there is no better way of saluting the end of a day out in the ‘bush’.
Even restaurants boast aged beef to buy by the hunk for future indulgence. Consider the Butcher Shop & Grill in Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, and Belthazar at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, both of which are awards winners for the excellence of their cuisines, as well as their wine lists.
And of course always, the debate is, which wine to have. Our master beer brewers will argue that a cold one is the best with a ‘boerie roll’ (our traditional beef sausage ((‘boerewors’)) lovingly enfolded into a white bread roll, along with some mustard, tomato-chili sauce or whatever takes your fancy).
Our homegrown red wine varietals virtually beg for pairing with our meats. The ‘weight’ of the wine should also balance whatever you’re eating. For instance, if you choose to have an unwooded chardonnay to enjoy with a red wine casserole, the wine will taste insipid compared to the fullness of the flavour on your plate.
A big-tasting main course begs for an equally big wine. However, keep in mind that, for instance, those perfect lamb chops. No Cabernet Sauvignon is going to do justice. Rather, try one of our excellent Pinot Noir varietals.
I’m having a feast for family and friends this weekend. My brother arrives tomorrow, with a leg of lamb in the cooler box. I will do it the Karoo way: slow, slow-roasted with lots of garlic and mint.