Barbecue in the Bush

By staff April 1, 2005

Flavor-crazed foodies have discovered their new hotspot: South Africa. The country's earthy, spice-infused food, born out of its long-ago role as trading center, pairs with a burgeoning wine scene, fed by rich soil that produces vintages known for their fruity flavors. "In the past 15 years, it's like what happened in California in the '70s," says Pattigeorge's Tommy Klauber of the country's "exciting" new culinary energy.

This June, Klauber will lead 70 Sarasotans on a Gulfcoast Connoisseur Club trek through South Africa. They'll stay at the Singita Private Game Reserve, named the world's best hotel in 2004 by Travel & Leisure magazine, where they'll enjoy bush feasts prepared by some of the country's leading chefs and vintners. It all sounded too delicious for the rest of us to miss out on, so we asked Klauber to help us stage a South African safari feast, Sarasota-style, on a beautiful spring day in the wilds of Myakka State Park.

South African food has global culinary influences, explains Klauber, including Indian, Thai, Dutch, Irish and Moroccan, as well as native African fare like oxtail potjiekos (stew) and biltong (dried salted beef, a local staple). Other well-known dishes: hot and garlicky peri-peri chicken, often served with grilled polenta (an adaptation of the maize that's the foundation of native African cuisines); salsas, compotes and jellies made from citrus and native fruits; squash in myriad preparations; and of course, fire-grilled meats and seafood.

South African Safari Menu

Peri-peri Chicken with Grilled Polenta

Cape Town Butter-Poached Grilled Calamari and Shrimp

Biltong Spiced Filet on the Bone with Kumquat Compote

South African Lamb Chop Sosaties with Couscous

Roasted Cold Water Lobster with Black Bush Beans

Dukka Spiced Grouper with Squash Medley

Grilled Sweet Corn with Paprika and Parsley

Dukka Spiced Grouper with Squash Medley

Dukka Spice:

4 ounces sesame seeds

3 ounces hazelnuts or roasted chickpeas

2 ounces coriander seeds

1 ounce cumin seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon dried wild thyme or mint

Dry roast the sesame seeds until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Roast the hazelnuts for about 5 minutes and remove their skins (chickpeas do not need roasting further), then roast the coriander and cumin seeds until they darken. When everything has cooled, combine all the ingredients and pound or process to a coarse powder.

Season grouper filets liberally with dukka spice, then heat a heavy sauté pan and sear the grouper for 2 minutes and turn over. Place pan in a 400- degree oven and allow the fish to cook for 5-6 minutes. Serve immediately with Squash Medley.

Roasted Squash Medley:

1 large acorn squash, peeled and cubed

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 large white potatoes, cubed

2 large red potatoes, cubed

1 medium green pepper, julienned

1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned

1 small onion, quartered

12 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, toss all ingredients until well coated. Arrange mixture in a single layer in greased baking pans. Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Biltong Spiced Filet on the Bone with Kumquat Compote

Biltong Spice Rub:

1 cup coarse sea salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup ground black pepper

1/4 cup coarsely ground coriander

Dip the bone-on filet in balsamic vinegar and then sprinkle with biltong spice. Grill over a hot fire for about 4 minutes per side.

Kumquat Compote

1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 pound kumquats

2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon mustard seed

1 tablespoon coriander seed

In a medium heavy-bottom pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes until kumquats are tender and allow to cool.

Peri-Peri African Chicken

1/4 cup paprika

2 tablespoons hot chili powder

1 cup fresh lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 bone-in chicken breast halves


In a large bowl, stir together the paprika, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and salt. Rub chicken with the mixture, place in a dish, and marinate for 3 hours.

Preheat a grill for medium heat. Place chicken onto the grill and discard the marinade.

Cook for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is slightly charred and juices run clear.

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