I’m always on the lookout for new ingredients to play around with, having an extra eye out for lean and healthy meats. Quite some time ago, ostrich was being marketing’ed all over the place every time the words “health”, “shape” and “alternative for chicken” popped up. Ironically you couldn’t get a hold of the stuff anywhere outside of a ponzy restaurant. Up until about 2 or 3 years ago, after which it became much more common, ostrich steaks sometimes appeared as a highly overpriced rarity during BBQ season, ready marinated and prepped for convenient use. I really, really don’t like approaching a new ingredient if it’s already been messed with, especially if it’s doused in „marinades“ or „sauces“ of questionable origin and flavor that usually come with a ton of don’t-worry-about-its in them, so I ignored these birds for a while.
When I finally unearthed a couple of really tasty looking, unaltered ostrich steaks at the butcher’s, I immediately brought back a pair and got to work. After a quick fry-and-taste I decided on something fruity and spicy and something crispy to go with it while mostly leaving the meat itself alone. I’ve refined the composition a little bit since that day, and it has been showing up on our menu a number of times by now, so here goes~
This will net you around 1-1,5 jam jars. I usually make a larger batch, double the amount to be exact, that’s why the amounts of ingredients are kind of crooked. Cape gooseberries aren’t everyone’s cup of tea though, so you may want to make a smaller amount at first.
250g ripe Peaches, skinned and pitted
85g Red Onions, finely cubed
½ Tsp hot Chilli Flakes
3g fresh Ginger, finely grated
50g Light Muscovado
85ml White Balsamic Vinegar
25ml dry White Wine
½ Tsp Sea Salt
½ Shallot, very finely cubed
85g fresh Cape Gooseberries, removed from their pretty lanterns, thoroughly washed and dried
1) To quickly skin the peaches, carefully slit the skin crosswise with the tip of a sharp knife without cutting in to deep and blanch them in boiling water for 1 min. This won’t cook the peaches, it will just make it easier to pull the skin off. Fill a bowl large enough for the peaches with ice cubes or really cold water in the meantime. Once their minute in the boiling water is up, move them from the pot directly into the icy water.
2) Pat them dry with a paper towel to prevent them from slipping out of your hands and peel off the skins. Cut them in halves and take out the pits, then slice them into 1cm cubes. I intentionally vary the size of the pieces of fruit whenever I make a chutney to have different textures in the end, but I’m aware I might be breaking protocol with that. If you prefer a smooth texture in a chutney, make sure all of the cubes end up the same size.
3) Spread out the muscovado on the bottom of a heavy-based saucepan or pot and start melting it over medium heat.
4) After about 2 minutes, add the peaches. Their juice will ooze into the sugar and help it dissolve quickly. Give the pot a gentle shake after a minute, the grains should have dissolved by now – in case your peaches aren’t giving off enough juice, wait another minute. Just make sure to prevent the sugar grains from sticking to the pot by swirling the peaches around in it from time to time.
5) Once that’s done, turn the heat up to high, add the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the gooseberries and the shallot and bring the mix to a boil. As soon as large bubbles start rising, reduce the heat to medium and let the chutney simmer for 30 minutes with the lid half on the pot. Carefully stir the chutney with a wooden spoon from time to time, try not to break up the fruit in the process.
6) Have a peek at the amount of liquid in your pot after 20 minutes. If there’s a lot of it leave the lid off and turn up the heat, and stir more frequently. If the consistency is close to a chutney (between a jam and a sauce) already, leave the lid on and just take it off for the last 3-5 minutes.
7) At the 20 minute mark add the gooseberries and a finely cubed shallot. I always cut half of the gooseberries in halves and keep the other half whole, but that’s a cosmetic measure rather than a flavor related one, so thats up to you.
8) Have a taste and adjust your seasoning if necessary.
9) You will have more chutney than you need for this dish, so set aside the amount you want to serve and pour the remaining hot chutney directly into sterilized jars and seal the lids.
The Cajun Spice Blend
This is one of my favorite spice blends, it goes wonderfully with anything grilled or roasted. Unlike other spice blends I usually make this in small batches as needed and adjust it to fit the rest of the dish. When I had the idea to use sweet potatoes along with the fruity chutney for this dish, the cajun blend immediately popped into my head and I decided to give it a double roll of the chillies for good measure – which would normally donkey-kick most other flavors off your plate, but sweet potatoes can take it, right? In hindsight… I shouldn’t have picked habanero flakes to double-up. Anyways, this one is the basic version, ready to be tweaked to suit your personal taste.
These amounts will net you a bit more than you’ll need for the dish. If you want to change the amounts, just translate my tablespoon as „1 part“, a teaspoon as „ ½ Part“ and take it from there. I’d like to advise you again to make spice blends a little in advance and tweak them to your liking by taste-testing and adjusting. To judge this one, dusting a slice of chicken breast or a piece of griddled zucchini with it works wonderfully.
2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme
1 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp Coarse Sea Salt
1 Tsp Black Pepper, coarsely cracked
1 Tsp Chilli Flakes – Jalapeno or Poblano flakes work wonders in this one. If you’re planning to use dried Chipotles for an extra smoky boost, start with half the amount to begin with since they can easily overpower the other spices.
1 Tsp Cumin, ground
1 Tsp Coriander Seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tsp Fennel Seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tsp Garlic, dried and ground
1 Tsp Onion, dried and ground
1 Tsp Ginger, dried and ground
½ Tsp ground Cinnamon
1) Heat a small pan on medium-low heat. Gently toast the pepper shards, coriander and fennel seeds.
2) Once the seeds start giving off small crackling noises, add the dried herbs, chilli flakes, garlic, onion and cinnamon, turn off the heat and give the pan a flip. Take the pan off the stove a minute after that.
3) Place the coarse salt in a pestle and mortar and add the toasted spices. Grind them up to a size you like, just make sure you don’t take it too far and end up with a fine dust – it would more likely make you sneeze than actually get some spice onto your potatoes.
4) Add the rest of the ingredients and give them a good stir until everything is evenly distributed.
5) Set the amount you’re going to use for the potatoes aside and store the excess amount in an airtight container at room temperature to minimize the aroma-loss.
By the way, this blend works as a wet rub as well, just replace the dried garlic with 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, the onion with 2 tbsp of finely chopped red onion, the chilli flakes with a fresh pod and add some fresh thyme and oregano (in addition to the dried ones). Stir the blend into a paste with 3-4 tbsp of rapeseed oil to create a thick wet rub or marinade for chicken and prawns.
2-3 Large Sweet Potatoes
2-3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1-2 Tbsp of the Cajun Spice Blend
After a very unpleasant experience, easily classified as childhood food-trauma, involving sweet potato mash I avoided anything sweet-potato-related like spider-infested basements. When the memories of that horrid evening had faded enough, I gave them one last chance at an american diner – crispy sweet potato fries cozying up to my burger. It worked. The taste got kind of overpowering halfway through the heap on my plate – the word „moderation“ came flashing through my mind, blinking in really bright colors – so I blamed the oversized portion for the rising disgust and decided to give them a try the next time the occasion called for fries. With an oven waiting for me this time, I had the chance to experiment a little to make it work. Here’s what I did for a delicious, moderately sized batch of non-greasy, really crispy sweet potato fries.
1) Peel the potatoes and cut them in similar sized sticks – about ½ – 1cm thick.
2) After cutting them into shape, rinse them under running water for a couple of minutes to remove the starch from the cutting surfaces.
3) Pat them as dry as possible with paper towels and place them on a cake rack.
4) Place the rack in the fridge for 2 hours, getting rid of more moisture in the process.
5) After their time in the fridge, pop them into the oven as it’s heating up for the ostrich. Keep them in at 60-80°C for around 20 minutes, then let them cool down again outside.
6) Heat a large pan or griddle on high heat until it’s smoking hot.
7) Evenly brush the potato sticks with a thin layer of oil, sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and set them into the pan.
8) Fry the potatoes, regularely turning them, until they’re tender on the inside and golden brown and crispy on the outside.
9) Dust them with a generous helping of the cajun spice blend and rest them on paper towels to soak up the excess oil until you’re ready to plate up. You might want to watch the timing with these a bit so they’re still hot and crispy the time the ostrich comes out of the oven – Start frying them as soon as the bird goes in.
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2x 150-180g Ostrich Steaks
1) Brush the steaks with a thin layer of olive oil.
2) Preheat your oven to 180°C.
3) Set a griddle on high heat and wait until it’s smoking hot. Sear the steaks until they are marked up all around. This shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes on each side.
4) Season them with salt and freshly ground pepper.
5) Either set them onto the middle rack of your oven or, if your pan is oven-proof, place the pan on the same rack and finish them off in the oven for 10 min at 180°C. In my experience, ostrich reacts pretty much the same as beef to the usual pressure or temperature check when it comes to determining whether it’s done.
6) Plate up as soon as the steaks are out of the oven.