I think that, when I make a journey to Borough Market, I should avoid asking Goon what he’d like. This is because he always says the same thing: bloody ostrich fillet.
Yes, I do like ostrich fillet. It is gorgeous stuff but, since it is so expensive (about £10 to feed the two of us) I feel the need to do something really exciting with it whenever we have it. To begin with this wasn’t a problem, but now we’ve had ostrich lots of times and I’m running low on inspiration.
The internet is useless for finding recipes for this particular meat. Let’s face it, there are a lot of terrible ostrich recipes out there. For some reason half the world seems to have gone ‘Hey- there’s some new low fat, low cholesterol red meat available. Let’s take every beef recipe we can find and substitute.”
I think this is a shame. It is a waste of the great flavour of ostrich. After all, we don’t generally use beef as a lamb substitute or vice versa, so why is ostrich used as a beef substitute? Since lamb and beef have fundamentally different flavours, I would neither sub beef into a classic lamb dish, ike roast lamb wiht mint sauce, nor top lamb with a port and stilton sauce. The same goes for ostrich.
For some reason, not many people feel the same way, which is a shame because ostrich has a beautiful distinctive flavour. True, it bears a passing resemblance to beef (especially when overcooked) but the flavour is lighter with a sort of gamey ‘kick’ to it. I think it is rather like a cross between duck and beef but a little sweeter than either.
It was the beef and duck flavours I had in mind when I made this dish. I knew that duck is frequently served with wild mushrooms (an idea which quite appeals to me) and I’ve had beef fillet in brandy-cream sauce many times already. A combination of the two sounded like just what I needed for the ostrich.
Now I know I’ve mentioned that ostrich is a very dark meat. I think it’s about time I qualified that statement.
See? Very, very dark! And not all that appealing in that state.
To turn it from that slug-like object into something very tasty, only two minutes of pan-frying per side (on the highest hob setting) are needed followed by about 5 minutes of resting in a warm place wrapped in kitchen foil. This really is a meat which is best eaten rare.
I made the sauce for the ostrich by gently frying half a finely diced onion with a minced garlic clove until soft then stirring in about 40g dried wild mushrooms that had been soaked in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then I added about 100ml double cream, a little soaking liquid from the mushrooms and about 50 mls beef stock.
I let this reduce until we had a nice thick sauce then added a big slug of brandy which I had flambÃ©ed in the pan I used to cook the ostrich. I served the steak topped with the mushroom sauce alongside some wild rice and sauteed green beans.
This dish suprised me so much! I thought I’d seen the best of ostrich, but I was wrong. The flavours here were great. They complemented the ostrich’s beefy flavour without overwhelming the sweet gaminess. I was very happy indeed and can thoroughly recommend this combination.
One thing to note is that is important to use a reasonable brandy for this - nothing too expensive but definitely not ‘cooking brandy.’ It is the only way I’ve been able to get brandy sauce to work, cheap brandies seem to make the sauce lose its flavour pretty quickly.
If you fancy branching out and trying ostrich, I thoroughly recommend Gamston Wood at Borough Market as a fantastic supplier. They might even have some more liver in next week \o/