Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ostrich Fillet and Butternut Kebabs - Braai the Beloved Country

When it comes to braai recipes, our family tends to go for the same old favourites again and again. Spicy chicken wings, marinated lamb chops, chicken in foil, chicken kebabs, boerewors and more boerewors and, for special occasions, a whole fillet of beef in sea salt and black pepper.

But I reckoned that Cooksisters  Braai the Beloved Country event called for something new, something to get my foodie creative juices flowing again in honour of Braai Day.

A friend suggested this ostrich steak and butternut combination and I gratefully grabbed the idea. My enthusiasm lasted all the way to the supermarket, where the price of a tiny packet of ostrich fillet horrified my frugal self. Prodigal self however won out and, with no better inspiration coming to mind,  I splashed out – these were going to be jewels of foodie braaidom.

The ostrich fillet is currently marinating in a simple bath of olive oil (extra virgin of course), rosemary, balsamic vinegar (so passé it’s almost retro, I know!), sea salt and black pepper.

I’m about to blanch the butternut, so that it cooks quickly enough to go with the meat and maybe some mushrooms can have their own little marinade too and join the party.

I’ve thought about lowering the tone by producing some braaied cheese sandwiches as a starter, but abandoned the idea after further thought. Otherwise all we need is a few herby potatoes, a salad, or maybe some freshly picked minted peas, if I can brave the miggies (midges of the fearsome variety, which are the bane of fine spring weather) to pick them in the veggie garden.

The breeze eventually chased away the miggies and the garden yielded loads of fresh peas

I’ll finish off the post once we've had our braai – I’m getting ahead of myself here writing up recipe before sampling it, but the deadline is looming and I’m squeaking in a the last minute as usual.....

 After the braai

Ostrich fillet has us all convinced – it’s expensive but worth it for a special treat. Tender and full of flavour the cubes of meat were indeed foodie perfection!

The butternut worked fine – it turned out perfectly cooked after its pre-cooking phase, but it lacked that caramelised sweetness that makes baked butternut such a delight. Perhaps if I’d cut thinner slices, with thin ends to catch and caramelise on the fire it would have had more character.

Next time I might try soaked dried apricots to add a fruity note. The mushrooms were good though and not a scrap was left, even the picky eater devouring the meat and having seconds, though it was the adults that finished up everyone's veggies!

But all in all a worthy recipe to celebrate braai day, even if a little too fancy and minimalist to be a true South African braai! But then we had all been feasting at our spring festival yesterday, so minimalist kebabs of healthy lean meat was exactly what was required!

Recipe for ostrich fillet and butternut kebabs
Ostrich fillet
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
butternut squash
melted butter
salt and pepper
button mushrooms
fresh orange juice
olive oil
lemon thyme sprigs

I haven’t put any quantities in – it all depends how much meat you have and how many you are feeding. My small packet of fillet made 8 kebabs with four cubes of meat on each and fed the five of us just enough for a family supper.

Cut the ostrich fillet into cubes.
Mix together a few tablespoons of olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar, a few sprigs of rosemary and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Marinate the ostrich fillet cubes in the mixture for a few hours or better overnight.
Peel the butternut and cut into cubes or chunks – mine were about 1.5 cm or so. Blanch them in boiling water for two minutes – they should still be firm but have slightly more give to them. Dunk them in cold water, drain and leave to dry off.
Marinate the mushrooms in a little freshly squeezed orange juice mixed with some olive oil and some lemon thyme springs and season with salt and pepper.
When nearly ready to cook, toss the butternut cubes in some melted butter sprinkled with cinnamon and salt and pepper.
Thread all the ingredients onto skewers and hand over to the  braaimaster, who will deftly cook them over a good even heat turning every few minutes, until the meat is perfectly cooked, about  10-15 minutes depending on the heat.

Enjoy the braai, savour the sunshine, the smokey aromas, the gathering around the fire all together, the start of a long summer season of good food cooked over a wood fire.

And check out Cooksister over the next couple of days for the round-up of all the entries into this annual braai blog event - there should be a rich source of braai recipes to last you the rest of the summer!

And here it is the round-up for  Braai the Beloved Country 2011. Check it out for some great looking and tasty braai recipes!


  1. Looks amazing
    I am a big ostrich fan ! ♥

  2. Oooh, another of your legendary braais! I still hope to attend one some day... Ostrich fillet IS pricey but as you say, worth it. Love the combination of the sweet butternut and the rich meat - and yes, I would definitely try some soaked dried apricots too. I would have voted for braai sarmies if I were a guest ;o) Thanks so much for joining in the fun for Braai the Beloved Country!

  3. Egads, I was so excited about the tomato salad I nearly missed this post! Drooling over here. I can SMELL that meat over the fire!!!


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