Durban - The star of the show is an Afrikaner cow – and some of KwaZulu-Natal’s top chefs.
In a first for the province, on August 30 at the Durban Country Club, 10 chefs will be collaborating to produce a sumptuous feast. Titled “Eat A Cow”, a Slow Meat initiative, the aim is to highlight the growing demand for meat production that is good, clean and fair for all, and to highlight how to consume without losing biodiversity, traditional recipes and the way South Africans used to eat.
Some of the chefs include Xanthos Giannakopolos (DCC); Jackie Cameron (Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine); Alexander Poltera (Fern Hill Hotel); Kayla Osborn (Traffords); Andrew Draper (Harveys Restaurant); Charlie Lakin (9th Avenue Bistro); Jonty Nicolson (Nicolson Country Cafe); Steven Kruger (Beluga) and Gerard van Staden (Simbithi Country Club).
The challenge for the chefs is to prepare their own dishes using an individual cut of beef, sourced nose-to-tail-style from a single grass-fed Afrikaner cow. They will be taking part in a competition to choose the best chef on the day to take part in a cook-off against chefs from Joburg and Cape Town.
The winner will be part of a delegation including chefs, farmers and producers, who will cook for the committee and guests at the Slow Food movement convention in Italy next year.
Founded in 1989, in reaction to the proliferation of US fast food franchises in Italy, Slow Food has over 100 000 members in 153 countries and aims to develop an appreciation of gastronomic cultures and promote an awareness of the relationship between food, the environment and individuals.
At the Eat A Cow launch event this week, chefs listened as farmer Adrian Cloete, chairman of the Grass Fed Association South Africa, spoke of the Afrikaner breed that his family have farmed for three generations.
Originally from Asia, they crossed continents, came into contact with the lateral horned zebu cattle, and made their way to the Cape, where they were seen by Portuguese sailors in the 15th century.
The breed is increasingly rare in this country, plummeting from 759 registered farmers in 1964 to 35 this year. They and the Nguni breed, indigenous African breeds, are considered under threat from European breeds that grow fatter and faster in the industrialised farming system that uses feedlots. These hardy local breeds are still the preferred choice for small-scale farming and rural homestead livestock. Their loss would cause huge problems for rural communities and food security in general.
Cloete told the chefs that the grass-fed and free range herd was known for having a “double tenderness gene” that guarantees a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a delicious, rich flavour. But, he told the chefs, the cow “would have walked her whole life” in the dry conditions of North-West province and would be a “fit’ animal.
Also promoting the use of this breed is Caroline McCann, a lawyer and now the owner of Braeside Meat Market in Parkhurst in Joburg. McCann is the Slow Meat South African Convenor. She is passionate about promoting ethically-raised meat and only sells grass-fed beef, which she sees as a far superior product to feedlot beef, and not only in taste. Grass-fed beef has a higher healthy fat content.
McCann is the driving force behind the Eat A Cow initiative. Food lovers who took part in last month’s Taste of Durban’s fun experience, where spice manufacturer Robertsons showed people how to make their own homemade burgers, would have seen McCann expertly debone a chicken thigh and leg.
She explained to the competing chefs that each would receive two randomly allocated cuts of meat – a primary cut (250 portions) and then an offal cut (40 portions). The public gets to sample six random dishes from the different chefs, five primary dishes, one offal dish and a dessert.
The primary cuts include chuck, brisket, short rib, loin, rump, fillet, topside, silverside, thick flank and flank. The offal dishes include bones, fat, heart, tripe, kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, oxtail, tongue and head.
The chefs will also have access to Boavida Heirloom Organic Vegetables from Camperdown to go with their dishes, and will have to pair their dishes with craft beers or specially selected craft wines.
Also included in the ticket price of R295 is one golden ticket that members of the public can assign to their favourite chef, which puts the chef in line to win a Big Green Egg outdoor oven from the main sponsors.
McCann says the event is for the whole family and there will be burgers (R75), using Afrikaner beef, and organic cordials for children. Tickets can be bought through the Durban Country Club (031 313 1777).Independent On Saturday