While I had every intention of posting this week, this blog post was ensured by the strike, march and protest action currently taking place in Du Noon. A lack of service delivery has finally sparked this disruption and access to my premises has been denied to me and my staff. The constant extremes we are exposed to on a daily basis in this country are often difficult to process and the fancy cars, luxury malls and big houses contrast greatly with the way the majority of people live. There will be no winners today. Strikers will lose a days wages, employers will lose a days production and all those inconvenienced by the marchers will feel frustrated, irritated and less likely to feel compassion.
A perfect example of extremes in the food world can be illustrated by the humble or not so humble burger. I won't mention any fast food chains, you can pick your favourite one but be honest, that grayish brown thingy in the middle of the bun is fairly homogenous across each outlet. Made from feedlot beef, possible containing mechanically deboned meat, probably containing flavour enhancers and phosphates and definitely not opulent or luxurious.
At the same time, in the same town, on the same day you can order a Wagyu burger. For those who don't know about Wagyu let me give you some background:
– Wa (Japanese style) gyu (cow) is the name given to 4 breeds of cow that originated in Japan
– Kobe beef is Wagyu beef that comes from the Kobe region and is governed by several rules and regulations in a similar way to Champagne and Parma ham
– The meat is higher in omega3 and omega6 fatty acids and lower in cholesterol than commercial beef
– The meat has a large amount of marbling and the fat has a lower melting point which results in a wonderful texture and flavour
– The legend goes that the farmers in Kobe feed the cows beer, massage them with sake daily and play them classical music but this is more likely to be myth than truth
Wagyu are being bred in South Africa and local restaurants, butcheries and customers are discovering the joy of this amazing beef. You have to treat it slightly differently as the fat will melt away if cooked for too long. It is also extremely rich and a little goes a long way. I first tried a Wagyu burger at the Food Wine Design show at Hyde Park thanks to Caroline from Braeside Butchery. She served them on a plain bun and the best way to describe the taste is to imagine a grass fed beef patty mixed with butter. It melted on the tongue and needed no sauce or condiments.
Of course due to the nature of the product, the care and time taken to breed the animals and the scarcity of the meat it comes at a significant premium. You could pay up to R500 for a Wagyu steak in a top restaurant which is possibly the monthly food bill bill for some of todays marchers. Curious, and after a visit to Neil Jewell I decided to try curing some Wagyu. Fortunately I can use cheaper cuts and settled on topside to be turned into Breasaola. It really is something you should try at least once. Topside is not too fatty, has more flavour and the texture is soft but doesn't fall apart. It pairs beautifully with soft goats cheese, peppery olive oil and a twist of black pepper.
I added some avo, micro greens, a random caper or two and cherry tomatoes to make a simple but delicious lunch dish which has become a regular feature in our house.
I you wish to try the bresaola you can find it at Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants on Kloof Street.
“Our lives teach us who we are” – Salmon Rushdie