16 March 2013 by Julienne du Toit

The Karoo Food Festival in Cradock

Food from the Karoo has a newfound cachet these days as tastes move to slow food, wholefood, free range and organic. The clean desert air and pure groundwater make for great grub.

The Tuishuise and Victoria Manor Hotel in Cradock will host some of the food events

In practically every backyard of Karoo towns, you’ll find a pomegranate tree or two, a quince hedge, and almost invariably, a fig tree. These are desert crops and they thrive here.

There will be food demonstrations, Karoo recipe books on sale, talks with authors, an unusual display of Spode and Wedgwood crockery, and stalls and tables overloaded with fresh Karoo produce and preserves.

Winter is hunting season, so there’s always venison – mostly springbok or kudu (kudu salami is becoming quite the thing). And the Karoo is home to millions of sheep (between 12-million and 15-million, the last time anyone thought to count), so in every farmhouse kitchen, there is usually a mutton stew or a leg of lamb in the Aga.

Lately more boutique crops like pecan nuts, walnuts, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries have been found to do really well. Some farmers are experimenting with cheese-making to supplement income, and with all the woolly creatures around, sheep’s cheese was always going to be a given.

Strawberries, springbok carpaccio and sheep haloumi cheese - all produce of the new Karoo. Picture by Chris Marais

Graaff-Reinet now boasts a slow food chef, Gordon Wright, who creates food from veld to fork.

As a result, there is growing excitement about Cradock’s Karoo Food Festival. The first of its kind in the Karoo, it will be held between 21 and 23 March. Most of the action will centre around Cradock High School and the Tuishuise.

There will be food demonstrations, Karoo recipe books on sale, talks with authors, an unusual display of Spode and Wedgwood crockery, and stalls and tables overloaded with fresh Karoo produce and preserves.

And then, if you haven’t gorged yourself too much on venison pies, roosterkoek (griddle-baked bread) and quince jelly, the town of Bedford down the road is having its first Soul Food Festival a month later, from 26 to 28 April.

Bon appétit!

Category: Food & Wine

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