Living on a game farm in the wilds of Namibia has taught DANENE VAN DER WESTHUYZEN to use nature’s gifts.
We hunt and gather as much as we can on our farms. Living 200km from the nearest town we’ve learnt to make the most of what we have. And we like it that way. It’s a good excuse to fill the corridors with the smell of freshly baked bread every morning. We make our own cakes, croissants, rusks and a host of jams to smother them in. We milk our Jersey cows to make butter, cream, yoghurt and ricotta cheese. We grow our herbs and vegetables despite an occasional but aggressive black frost during our short winter months.
At the beginning of spring we collect ostrich eggs and freeze most of them to last us until the next spring. The end of the summer rains is the time to scour the cracked earth for !/nabbas, the prized Kalahari truffle. Winter is the main hunting season. There is no time to rest as we prepare the meat for the year ahead. We use every part of the animal, from steaks and stews to biltong and wors. There is an incredible variety of endemic game on our farms: gemsbok, springbok, eland, kudu, hartebeest, zebra, impala and more. For game bird we have a choice of guinea fowl, sandgrouse, francolin and ostrich. Warthog is our substitute for wild boar.
Apart from the good of conservation and the environment, what I love most about living off the land is discovering delicacies in unusual places. Porcupine? Crackle up the skin over naked flames for delicious crispy canapés.
!/Nabba is the Khoekhoe (or Nàmá) word for truffles of the Kalahari. !/Nabbas grow close to the surface, leaving tell-tale cracks and protrusions in the red soil as if drawing a treasure map for avid truffle collectors. They grow in the wet season but only when the weather suits them. More often than not, we have to wait patiently for the end of the season before we gather our treasures. But if you can’t wait any longer, you can substitute the !/nabbas with white truffles, mushrooms or even biltong.
- 500g !/Nabbas, thinly sliced (or substitute with truffles, mushrooms or biltong)
- 3 large onions, finely chopped
- 100g Knorr mushroom soup powder
- 2ℓ milk
- 1ℓ water
- 1ℓ cream
- salt and pepper
- 60ml sherry
Sauté the !/nabbas together with the onions in a heated pan for 3–5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the mushroom soup powder, milk, water and cream. Bring to the boil and cook for about 3–4 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper and add the sherry. Bring to the boil and then quickly remove from the heat. Serve immediately with fresh bread and lots of salted butter. Serves 8–10.
I don’t usually marinate game as it can spoil the unique taste, but in this recipe the marinade works wonders:
Red hartebeest sirloin, 1 whole (1½kg)
For the marinade:
- 125ml lemon juice
- 80ml soy sauce
- 125ml olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
For the filling:
- 500g mushrooms, chopped
- ¼ cup onions or shallots, chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- ¼ cup cognac or brandy
- ¼ cup beef or chicken stock
- salt and pepper, freshly ground
- fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 250g cream cheese
Using a large-bladed knife, make a slit that runs the length of the sirloin. Be careful not to cut through to the other side. The sirloin should remain whole with the slit forming a pouch for stuffing. Place the meat and all marinade ingredients in a covered dish for up to 12 hours, turning every two hours. When you’re ready to prepare the meat for cooking, soak a few wooden toothpicks in water. Sauté the mushrooms and chopped onions in olive oil and butter. Add the Cognac and stock. Simmer to reduce the liquid. Season with salt, pepper and fresh parsley. Allow to cool before stirring in the cream cheese. Stuff the mixture into the slit in the sirloin. Close with the soaked toothpicks. Grill on the fire until medium rare. Let the meat rest for 5–10 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and cut into 3cm-thick slices for serving. Serves 6.