By Louise Liebenberg
HAD it been a Trivial Pursuit question it would have flummoxed me right there but, believe it or not, ostriches do have tails!
And more importantly – especially if you’re a fervent foodie like me who is ever on the lookout for interesting or unusual ingredients – those tails sure clean up good.
I confess hubby Salvelio and I were incredulous to learn not only that ostriches have tails, but that these curious appendages (which apparently aid the bird’s balance) can be transformed into a magnificent meal.
Westvill Deli in Walmer, Port Elizabeth is where we found this strange ingredient, perfectly cleaned and ready for the pot. Sandi Holmes, who co-owns this great little deli with her mother, Rita de Villiers, suggested we treat the tails not with suspicion, but very much in the way you would prepare oxtail.
Westvill is one of those hidden gems that you almost selfishly want to keep to yourself; they stock fantastic game products like springbok, eland, warthog and kudu – and of course ostrich. Their quality is always good; so good in fact that many local restaurants are now buying their game – like beautiful impala loin, springbok carpaccio and the like -from Sandi and her mum. Better yet is that the products are well priced… and, if like me you are starting to develop more of a consciousness about your carbon footprint, you can rest assured that every last item has been sourced exclusively in the Eastern and Southern Cape.
Appropriately, former farm girl Sandi, who is married to Weekend Post chief photographer Mike Holmes, gets her ostrich meat from Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo – the historical heart of ostrich country. She has been stocking the tails for several years but says they’ve become especially popular in recent months, as more people discover this rather odd ingredient. It doesn’t hurt that ostrich tail is the ultimate budget beater, at just R32 a kilo – far cheaper than oxtail or any other meat you would typically use in a hearty stew.
So Salvelio and I scrubbed up some carrots and potatoes, added fresh tomatoes, peppers, herbs and few other bits, piled everything into a big, old cast-iron pot along with the browned meat, and slowly stewed the lot for about three hours.
The result? A fantastic dish in which the ostrich tail truly was the star of the show.
Scroll down below for the full recipe – and many other dishes featured on the blog in previous weeks!
Ostrich Tail Stew – The Recipe
This recipe easily serves 6 to 8 people. It does need about three hours to cook, so don’t start the prepping too late… or get soused while you wait!
1.6kg ostrich tail on the bone; flour for dusting; olive oil for frying; 2 onions, chopped; 4 fat cloves garlic, sliced; 1 red bell pepper, diced; 4 carrots, peeled and sliced; 1 tin of tomato paste; 2 sprigs fresh rosemary; 4 bayleaves; 1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika; 1kg of fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced; 1 tsp sugar; 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced; handful of flat-leaf parsley; 1/2 bottle of white wine (we used semi-sweet); salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.
Fry the onion, garlic, peppers and carrot in olive oil in a large cast-iron pot or “potjie” till slightly softened, then add the tomato paste and stir through, cooking for a bit.
Meanwhile, season the ostrich tail and dust it in flour before browning on all sides in some olive oil (it helps if you do this in a separate frying pan). Season it a little bit.
Place the browned meat on top of the vegetables in the cast-iron pot and dust with the paprika. You can take the pot off the heat in the meantime.
Cover the meat with the tomatoes and sprinkle the sugar over. Add the rosemary and bayleaves.
Now pack the potato slices over the tomato to form the top layer of the dish.
Add the wine and then sprinkle the parsley on top of the potatoes.
Cover the pot and place it in a prepared Weber for about three hours; alternatively, cook it, covered, in a preheated oven at around 180 degrees Celsius for roughly the same amount of time.
You can serve the ostrich tail with rice or, as we did, Mediterranean style, with plenty of ciabatta hunks to sop up the delicious sauce.
Where to find Westvill Deli
Sandi and her mum’s deli is at 1 Walmer Gardens Centre, at the corner of Heugh Road and Eighth Avenue, Walmer. Their contact number is 041-581-7221 or you can reach Sandi on 082-414-9744.