Cooking up a Karoo storm

BILTONG BOUNTY: Louzel Lombard demonstrates how to cut up a blesbok leg for biltong PHOTOGRAPHS: KAREN VAN ROOYEN
BILTONG BOUNTY: Louzel Lombard demonstrates how to cut up a blesbok leg for biltong PHOTOGRAPHS: KAREN VAN ROOYEN

Carpaccio, craft beer and koeksisters all part of this culinary ‘kuier’, writes JAZZING IT UP

KAROO food is no longer just about lamb chops.

There is so much more to the iconic area’s cuisine, in fact, that an entire weekend – dubbed by some the “slow-food weekend” – has been set aside every year to celebrate what is put onto the Karoo table.

Now in its third year, the Karoo Food Festival showcases some of the region’s ingredients and culinary personalities. And while it is held in Cradock, the organisers have no qualms about others taking the idea and cultivating their own food festivals in other Karoo towns.

Among those demonstrating their skill and sharing their recipes at the festival last weekend were chef Marelise van Niekerk, who cooked with craft beer, duo Gordon Wright ( Veld to Fork author) and radio jock Charl Leslie, who shared handy kitchen tips and tasty restaurant-standard recipes that can be whipped up at home. Louzel Lombard hosted three demonstrations.

Lisa Antrobus-Ker, one of the four organisers, said the idea for a Karoo Food Festival was first raised at the Karoo parliament – meetings where Karoo towns and stakeholders reflect on development strategies – towards the end of 2012.

One of the topics there was food and what Karoo food entailed.

“We try to cook with as few flavours as possible, keep it as close to its natural state as possible. We are celebrate what the Karoo is and we want to try and show it in the most authentic way,” Antrobus-Ker said.

“We don’t actually realise that what we eat every day is what people desire. We have beautiful, quality products that people enjoy. The reason people come to the Karoo is they want the Karoo. Not London, not Paris. The Karoo.”

And of course biltong is very much part of the Karoo.

Louzel, a travel journalist who also graduated from Cape Town’s Capsicum Culinary School, demonstrated how a blesbok leg is cut up into six parts for biltong and shared her family’s traditional hunter’s biltong spice recipe – an aromatic mix including ground cloves, thyme, nutmeg and freshly scorched, ground coriander.

She also effortlessly put together canapés, including basil and fig pastry squares and venison bites, paired with Karoo-inspired cocktails by artisanal distiller Roger Jorgensen, whose liquid creations included rooibos-infused gin.

“It is made with South African ingredients, South African spirits and South African passion,” he said.

Later in the day, Louzel joined her mother, Lani Lombard, and ouma, Delene Lombard, at Lani’s restaurant, True Living, in Cradock’s main street.

Van Niekerk, an accomplished chef and farmer’s wife from Bedford, focussed on “marrying craft beer and food”.

“When I usually think of beer, it’s pub food, burger and chips. But the road of craft beer I’ve been on is amazing,” she said.

Even more amazing than that journey was the food Van Niekerk put together, including Thai chicken curry with a craft beer twist, beer and bacon jam and beer-poached pears.

“We have the totally wrong impression of beer. Beer is liquid food,” she said.

“I’m actually contemplating brewing beer on the farm and my father-in-law is very happy.”

The weekend ended with “Die Fees van die Baie Bokke”, a dinner in a marquee on the Cradock High School grounds, with entertainment by the Feesorkes. The menu included venison carpaccio, angora spitbraai, curried fallow deer and koeksisters.

“We just love cooking and kuiering [visiting with friends]. We don’t have movie houses so we kuier at friends’ homes,” Antrobus-Ker said.

Planning for next year’s Karoo Food Festival is already under way.

-Weekend Post Reporter

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