17 October 2010
Tasting Exotic Meats From South Africa
Earlier this year, we were contacted at Steenbergs Factory by someone asking us whether we had any sausage seasonings. The answer to which is yes, however they then asked us whether we had anything that would go with kangaroo, which was not what we had been anticipating. Anyway we sent them samples, but intrigued I investigated who they were and it transpired that Osgrow sold a range of exotic meats, having grown out of being an ostrich meat importer.
I do not know whether readers remember the days when ostrich was all the rage and we were all being told that its meat was leaner and richer than beef etc, but then there were various financial scandals of the Ponzi scheme style and the industry disappeared into the ether. Well, Osgrow seems to have started as the industry in the UK become dust and has created a neat little niche for itself.
It has taken some time for me to pluck up the courage to purchase, however we have done that now and received a well packed polystyrene container within 2 days of ordering online. That is decent service and the meat was vacuumed packed and the container had one of those freezer cubes in it to keep the temperature down. After much consultation en famille, we had gone for the Safara Grill Hamper for £47.75 (containing 2 x 125g wildebeest steaks, 2 x kudu steaks, 2 x eland steaks, 2 x springbok steaks and 2 x crocodile tournedos), plus 2 ostrich steaks (£6.99) and 2 more springbok steaks (£5.75). A gripe I would have is that we ordered the extra springbok steaks as they were not stated as being in the Safari Grill, but on the upside we did not get the bison steaks (which I can get locally in Yorkshire) receiving wildebeest instead, so on balance we were satisfied, I suppose.
We tried the game over a few weeks in time and our tasting notes are as follows:
Crocodile: white flesh with a texture akin to shark or tuna. Relatively flavourless and bland with a taste close to shark, a sort of very mild chicken taste with a slight hint of fish, which we guess is because of its water-based lifestyle.
Eland: this is a sweet type of venison, but I found it had an unpleasant almost sour-milk-like aftertaste, but Sophie quite liked it and preferred it to the springbok.
Kudu: this is a sweet, meaty type of venison without any overpowering meatiness. The flesh has a relatively soft easy bite. This is the family's favourite with three out of four scoring it top.
Springbok: gamier flavour than the kudu and without any of its sweetness, but without the richness of a British venison. Soft texture.
So of the venison and crocodile, kudu was the preferred choice. However, I must admit that it did not taste as good as when I have eaten it in South Africa in the past; I do not know whether that is a case of the ambience and setting not being quite right or whether (as I suspect) that the meat is perhaps not as good as it could be. I think that the venison from the UK tastes much better and is more authentic.
Finally, we taste tested the wildebeest and the ostrich steaks. These were once again fried in a small amount of melted butter. The wildebeest tasted of tough beef steak, which was really disappointing, whereas the ostrich steaks were really good - meaty, flavoursome and velvety in texture.
Overall, I would not buy the exotic game meats again as I did not think they were especially special and would recommend that you buy a British venison from a good producer like the Clutterbucks at Hornby Castle or from Holme Farmed Venison. I would, however, buy ostrich again as those steaks were really good and would also work well in a casserole.