Foraging feast at Stirlings unlocks region’s fine flavours

Smoked cashew nut butter with homemade bread made from wheat milled in the village. Pickled agave buds round off the plate
IN A PICKLE: Smoked cashew nut butter with homemade bread made from wheat milled in the village. Pickled agave buds round off the plate
Image: RALPH DIRSUWEI
Lamb bobotie with apricots in a pastry basket
TRIED AND TESTED: Lamb bobotie with apricots in a pastry basket
Image: RALPH DIRSUWEI

The Karoo tasting menu at Stirlings at The Ibis in Nieu-Bethesda was one of the very best food experiences we have had the privilege of enjoying.

We stumbled upon Stirlings quite by accident and so had zero expectations of what we were in for.

According to Stirlings chef Barbara Weits, her food is inspired by the Karoo and the bountiful ingredients this arid region offers.

“The six courses take you on a Karoo foraging journey, letting you experience the exciting and unique flavours of the region,” she said.

“We don’t want you to just enjoy a meal but rather feel like you are part of an adventure through time, tradition, and the discovery of new flavours and taste combinations.”

On arrival, we were shown to our cosy wooden table, sparkling with fairy lights under a cloche centrepiece and surrounded by tasteful art and funky decor.

Weits welcomed us with a tincture of medicinal herbs in a cut crystal sherry glass and explained that all her ingredients were home grown in her organic garden, foraged from the surrounding veld or sourced from local suppliers.

As the first plates were placed in front of us, I noticed with amazement the antique timepiece drizzled with paté, which made me think of artist Salvador Dali’s famous melting clock.

Weits the the clock symbolised that time moves slower in the Karoo.

She explained how she smoked the cashew nut butter with kapokbos, and hand-milled the wheat used for her homemade bread in the 100-year-old mill at the top of the village which only operates when the water furrows are opened to supply water to that part of town.

The plate was finished off with a pickled agave bud which provided the perfect tangy crunch to the dish.

Ostrich fillet with roasted prickly pear served on a hot stone from the nearby riverbed
UNUSUAL PLATING: Ostrich fillet with roasted prickly pear served on a hot stone from the nearby riverbed
Image: RALPH DIRSUWEI
French-inspired onion soup with cheese sablé
SIMPLY SUBLIME: French-inspired onion soup with cheese sablé
Image: RALPH DIRSUWEI

The second course was a sublime French-inspired onion soup with a cheese sablé served in a gorgeous miniature potjie pot.

We were interested to hear how alliums like onions and garlic love the Karoo climate and grow really well there.

Next up, melt-in-your-mouth lamb bobotie with apricots in a pastry basket —made using a turn-of-the-century recipe that Weits was delighted to stumble across in a vintage recipe book.

The second meat course was soft and succulent ostrich fillet, served on a hot stone from the fossil-rich riverbed that runs through the town, and on the side some roasted prickly pear which really enhanced the delicious flavour of the meat.

We had to guess the main ingredient of the first dessert course and though I would never expect it to be included in a dessert, I could recognise it as garlic — slow roasted to bring out its natural sweetness.

I never would have imagined that roasted garlic ice cream would taste good, but it was creamy and rich, and absolutely delicious when paired with the sweet walnut cookie served on the side.

The final course was a silky smooth blue cheese crème brûlée with a crispy sweet toffee topping that cut through the strong savoury cheese taste.

We were taken on a fascinating and entertaining culinary journey that showed us how food can incorporate foraged and medicinal plants, and that ingredients can be used in so many unexpected ways and unique combinations.

To book a table at Stirlings at The Ibis, call 072-110-6254.

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