Last legs

We’re back in Cape Town, but a sleepless night and a busy journey home have left me exhausted. Major events since we arrived back included the beagle being delighted to see me until I bathed it, and then me slicing deep into my left thumb while chopping biltong.
Sheffield stainless steel really does hold its sharpness. Unfortunately.

I still have some packing (ok, all my packing) to do for an overnight hike on the mountain starting early tomorrow, so there’s really not going to be much from me here today.

In fact, I think this is it.

(Not much) more tomorrow. But Tuesday should be a belter.

Stellenbosch Hills Biltong & Droewors Adventure

This sounds like it could be fun.
Step forward PG Slabbert – winemaker and manager at Stellenbosch Hills:

Stellenbosch Hills is the first cellar to combine two proudly South African delights with their Biltong & Droëwors Adventure to be enjoyed in the cellar door. The art of drying meat nowadays is as specialised as the art of wine making. Our aim was to create a competition where three of South Africa’s most popular products – wine and biltong and droëwors – could be combined.

Wait. What? Let’s just review that again: the plan is to combine wine and biltong and droewors?
It’s only the best idea to come out of the winelands since Big Concerts decided not to have the U2 concert at Val de Vie.
And enjoying them (the food and drink, not U2) in the cellar door may also yield some small degree of protection should a Kiwi-style earthquake unexpectedly hit Stellies.
They’ve thought this through.

So what’s it all about?
Well, essentially, it’s a biltong making competition, which I was alerted to by twitter user @Tara_L_B. Good work, Tara.
And, as Stellenbosch Hills notes (seemingly with a hint of disappointment):

Somebody has to win ….

and by “win” they mean “win” the fat R60,000 worth of prizes for the biltong which best complements their 2007 Shiraz. Surely to do that though, one would have to eat loads of biltong and drink loads of red wine in the name of research?


As regular readers will know, I’m a bit of a biltong fan and I have been rubbing my meat with spices, hanging it out, letting it dry and giving to friends and family to nibble on for several months now. In fact, only this morning, I unhung some of my best work so far.

Using Freddy Hirsch spices together with my not-so-secret Sheffield-based (or should that be “Sheffield-Baste”?!?!?! LOL!) (sorry) ingredient, I like to think I have crafted an ex-pat masterpiece, capable of beating even the most ardent of local biltong craftspersons.

So – could an outsider, a rooinek, a soutie – really slip in and nick the R60,000 from right under the local’s noses?

Usurper can like to be my middle name.

Better bring your A-game, Boland, ‘cos I’m in it to win it.
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Round up/explanation

Sorry for the absence of posts over the weekend. Real life got in the way – it happens from time to time.
There was the visitor over from the UK, some big decisions to make about money, a hammock to mend and a car to wash – a few other little things as well.
It might not sound like a lot, but it soon adds up.

In between all that, a quick trip up Signal Hill to find the world’s largest pine cone and fish, chips and wonderfully cold beer on the Waterfront on what was (unofficially) almost the first weekend of summer.

All the big stuff went OK – but more about that another time.


  • Yes, I had the snip. It’s been a wholly unpleasant couple of weeks since then, although I’m feeling much better now.
    “Pain free in 3-5 days”? I think not.
    I am not ever going to go through that again. Obviously.
  • Manie, Pick and Pay’s “General Manager for the Western Cape” was apparently lying when he stated: “I would really like to get in touch with you” (about the utterly horrendous behaviour at their Constantia branch), because he’s been ignoring my emails ever since.
    The cynic in me wants to suggest that Manie was actually just commenting for the sake of good PR and damage control and I’m actually getting fed up of suppressing him (the cynic, not Manie).
  • My Henderson’s Relish biltong recipe is now perfected. It’s awesome and I’m almost tempted to ramp up to industrial-scale production.

More tomorrow.
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When Hendo’s met Freddy

Many of you will remember the DIY Biltong post from a few weeks ago.
Well, since then I have experimented with many different sorts of meat and many different blends of spices in an attempt to create the world’s best raw-meat based snack. And while I was getting there slowly, my efforts received a huge boost on my birthday last week with a gift of 3kg of Freddy Hirsch biltong spices.
That’s enough to make 75kg worth of biltong.
I’m going to be busy.

The only issue is that since anyone can go and buy spices from Freddy, anyone can make first class biltong. But I don’t want to be one of the crowd.
I want my biltong to stand out; I want it to have a personal touch.
And that’s where Henderson’s Relish comes in. This “spicy Yorkshire sauce” has been made in Sheffield (right next door to the hospital I was born in) since the late 19th century.
It is to my home town what biltong is to my adopted country.

And, much like when Harry met Sally, the results of Hendo’s meeting Freddy are mindblowing.
It’s South Yorkshire meets South Africa.
It’s a pint of Magnet with a Klippies chaser in the pub on the corner of Bramall Lane and Voortrekker Road.
It’s bluddy bakgat, dun’t tha’ know, china?

It’s very me.

DIY Biltong

Ah – biltong – the staple food of South Africans since 1652.

What is it? Well, in case you don’t know and you haven’t already clicked through the link above, it’s essentially seasoned, dried meat.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s completely addictive, it keeps the South African toothpick and dental floss industries afloat and at anywhere between R150 – R350 per kilo (do the sums on the smaller packets), it’s damn expensive as well.

And it was these outrageous prices which led me to consider making my own biltong. But wouldn’t that be rather difficult?
Actually not – thanks to an article in June’s Popular Mechanics magazine. (I’m trying to keep this bit quiet because June still doesn’t know I’ve got it.) And, a couple of bits of wire, a light bulb, some dowel, a plastic box, an old computer fan and two hours later, I have my own homemade biltong dryer. And it works. Really well.

The first lot came out midweek and actually tasted very professional. And so the next lot has already gone in and will be ready by Tuesday morning: 72 hours being the current estimate for the optimum drying time.

I’m using strips (or “stokkies”) of Scotch Fillet (on offer at R60/kg at Pick n Pay) and seasoning with a mixture of black pepper, rock salt and coriander seeds. Then it’s into the dryer:

The meat is hung on bent paperclips from doweling crosspieces around a 45W light bulb. The lid goes on, the fan blows fresh air in and the timer is set.
And at night, it looks like a UFO has landed in the corner of the garage. Which is also quite cool.

Further tweaking of my methods and repertoire will obviously follow, but I think this must surely be the final step in my integration into South African society.

UPDATE: And here they are – ready to eat (remove paper clips first).