Swaziland is another country that is landlocked within South Africa. It also isn’t called Swaziland anymore, as King Mswati III renamed it the Kingdom of eSwatini in 2018. eSwatini means ‘land of the Swazis’ and apparently a driving force behind the change was the fact that, incredibly, the country was being mistaken for Switzerland under its former name.
The national dish of eSwatini is Karoo roast ostrich steak. The Karoo is a semi-desert region of southern Africa and, judging by what we saw when we were in South Africa, seems to be where a lot of the game meat seems to come from. We spent one night in Oudtshoorn, which is in the Klein Karoo and famous for its ostrich farms, and when we were there we went to a restaurant called Bello Cibo and ate rather a lot of ostrich: the ‘Ostrich Trio’ starter (ostrich carpaccio, ostrich fillet pasta and ostrich liver pate) and then ostrich fillet for main. So whilst we’re not exactly strangers to eating ostrich, we don’t think we’ve ever cooked it before, so when we learnt that it is eSwatini’s national dish, we had to give it a go. It’s obviously not the most common of meats, so we ordered ours online from Oslinc, and followed a recipe from National Foods of the World, which serves the ostrich with pumpkin mash and a cream sauce.
Karoo roast ostrich steak
2 ostrich steaks, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup double cream
1 cup white wine
6 green peppercorns, lightly crushed
5 juniper berries, lightly crushed
1 pumpkin (we used butternut squash), peeled and cubed
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 ground maize
Butter for frying
Salt and pepper
1. Put the ostrich, red wine and juniper berries in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, put the pumpkin and ground maize in a pot with enough water to cover the pumpkin. Boil for 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
3. When the pumpkin softens, drain off any excess liquid (see note below about this).
4. Mash the cooked pumpkin and ground maize together and set aside.
5. For the sauce, melt some butter in a clean pan and saute the onions in the butter until brown.
6. Add the peppercorns, white wine and cream and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer gently for a while to cook out some of the wine. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and set aside.
7. For the ostrich, discard the marinade, heat some butter in a separate pan and flash fry the ostrich strips.
8. Serve the ostrich alongside the pumpkin mash with the cream sauce drizzled over the top
There are a couple of things we need to mention before we get onto our verdict:
1. Step 3 of the recipe says to drain the excess water from the pumpkin/ground maize mixture. We have no idea how we could have done this. By the time it had cooked for a while, the water was very much combined with the ground maize, and draining the water would have drained the ground maize as well. So no draining took place, and as a result, this substance was more of a slop than a mash (Baby Mash still had fun splattering it everywhere with the masher though).
2. The recipe we followed said that Swazi cooking is heavily influenced by French cooking techniques. We’ve eaten a reasonable amount of French food in our time and never have we come across a cream sauce that is one part cream to two parts wine. The direction to ‘simmer gently for a while to cook out some of the wine’ is our addition.
3. This steak was very much fried, not roasted in any way.
4. Although there is nothing particularly difficult about this dish from a technique point of view, it does get a bit hectic towards the end when you’re trying to flash fry ostrich whilst also finishing a cream sauce. To be fair, we did make this even harder for ourselves by doing two separate lots of ostrich (one wine-free for the toddler), two separate sauces (one wine-free for the toddler), adding some greens, and making some separate mashed potato for the toddler because we didn’t think he’d eat much else.
And we were right. Baby Mash is in a particularly fussy phase with food at the moment and didn’t touch the ostrich, sauce or pumpkin, so all that effort was entirely worth it. *eye roll* Fortunately, Ash and Miranda did both like it! There was far too much pumpkin for one meal, and it wasn’t all that exciting anyway, but it did provide a sweet contrast to the sharpness of the cream sauce. We’re not sure how much impact the marinade had on the ostrich, as you couldn’t really taste it, but you can’t go wrong with a good steak!