Sous Chef is a seasoned world traveler. He’s been virtually everywhere, with the exception of some third world countries which wouldn’t be quite his style. Often he regales dinner guests with stories of his brush with cheetahs, rhinos, and other native South African wildlife on one of his “go-go days” business trips. On the other hand, most likely the closest I will get to South Africa is the Village WaTuTu at The Living Desert and in lieu of a safari I must settle for a documentary on the Discovery Channel.

Giraffe Feeding at Living Desert

Feeding the Giraffes at The Living Desert is one of my favorite early morning activities

Fortunately, this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend theme is South Africa, giving me a chance to conduct my own safari by bottle and fork. This theme presented a good excuse to get out of my culinary comfort zone and experiment with new cuisine. Sous Chef made a few inquiries on my behalf to a good South African friend and a menu was born. According to our friend, meat, lamb, potatoes, and sweets are the primary foundation for South African recipes and that they braii (barbeque) at every opportunity. Per our friend, South Africans were barbequing in earnest before any Australian threw a shrimp on the barbie.

Jaguars at The Living Desert

Check out the set of pipes on the Jaguar – best not be too late with breakfast!

Our South African Weekend Extravaganza included two days of wine and cuisine inspired by South African recipes we found on the internet. (Surprisingly enough, I do not have a cookbook dedicated to South African Cuisine.) I found that South Africa is a very diverse country. It has eleven official languages (and many more unofficial ones) and its colonization by the Dutch East India Company back in the mid-seventeenth century resulted from the need for fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat for ships sailing the trade route around the Cape. Over the years, South Africa cuisine has absorbed the influences of the Dutch, Portuguese, French, Germans, and Sumatrans into traditional African recipes. I was sure our local markets had no wildebeest, antelope, or cape buffalo, so true authenticity would be challenged.

Shrimp Peri-Peri with 1692 Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc

Shrimp Peri-Peri with 1692 Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc

Shrimp Peri-Peri & 1692 Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc:

The first night we feasted on an appetizer of Shrimp Peri-Peri, paired with a 1692 Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc, and an entrée of Onglet Steak with Biryani Spices, paired with Rust en Vrede Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. Peri-Peri is courtesy of the Portuguese and is basically a spicy chile sauce with garlic and lemon and is readily available at our local markets. This versatile sauce makes for a quick way to pep up your shrimp or any dish that could use a little zip. The Shrimp Peri-Peri can be served solo or on a bed of rice for a heartier appetizer.  The 1692 Spier Sauvignon Blanc Private Collection 2014 was like Carmen Miranda and one of her dazzling hats: full of orange, lime, and tropical fruit; full-bodied; with a sassy, crisp energetic acidity. It retails for $20.69 a bottle and it is a real show-stopper. We loved this easy drinking wine.

Onlget Steak with Biryani Spices

Onlget Steak with Biryani Spices

Onglet Steak with Biryani Spices & 2011 Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch Estate Red Blend:

The next pairing was a bit more complicated. Kind of like the love triangle between Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin in “It’s Complicated.” We paired the Onglet Steak with Biryani Spices with a 2011 Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch Estate Red Blend. I’d never heard of Onglet, let alone Biryani spice. Luckily, Onglet is not an exotic beast but hanger steak and Biryani spice is merely a blend of nine ingredients. Fortunately, I have a love affair with spices and had everything on hand, with the exception of freeze dried mandarin powder (raise your hand high if you have that in the cupboard). This love child of a curry mix is complicated in all the right ways. It reminds me of the subtle nuances and flavors you find in a Rick Bayless dish. This “rub” is applied to a hanger steak (or flank if hanger is not available) about 3 hours before grilling. Be sure to shake off any excess spice mixture before grilling as the resulting spice crust can overpower the meat.

Rust En Vrede Stellenbosch Estate - It's Complicated!

Rust En Vrede Stellenbosch Estate – It’s Complicated!

Talk about complicated. The 2011 Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch Estate Red Blend is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Shiraz, and 9% Merlot. This results in a deep, rich, full-bodied wine. There are notes of vanilla on the nose with a hint of licorice and fruit.   A little musky but fresh, smooth and supple. Kind of like Alec Baldwin in his prime, or Antonio Banderas. It takes time, but every sip seduces you a little more. This wine is more approachable when consumed with food and for me is too rustic as an aperitif. A bottle retails between $50-60.

Biryani Spice Lamb Chops and Sosaties

Biryani Spice Lamb Chops and Sosaties- ready for the grill!

Sosaties & The Chocolate Block 2013:

On our final night we went a little more native with our food pairings and ventured into Peppadew Peppers, Sosaties (kebabs), and Vinegar Pudding. Oh, and Sous Chef also insisted on lamb chops for the full experience. The Sosaties(kebabs) are made by making a marinade of onion, apricot jam, Worcestershire sauce, ginger, curry, and bay leaves and then marinating one inch cubes of beef for 2 hours in the mixture. The meat is skewered with peppadews, apricots, and onions and then grilled. The marinade provides a sweet-sour-spicy flavor profile that is unbeatable when combined with the smoky char that comes from grilling. This is a party in your mouth! For the lamb chops, I used the Biryani rub from the night before and grilled them about 3 ½ minutes a side. I’m not a lamb eater, but Sous Chef raved about them.

The Chocolate Block

The Chocolate Block

I paired the kebabs and lamb with a bottle of The Chocolate Block 2013 purchased from Total Wine for $29.69. The Chocolate Block is a blend of 71% Syrah, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Grenache, 5% Cinsault, and 1% Viognier. It is a much more approachable wine on its own than the Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch and exhibits hints of spicy cloves, plum, and blackberries. The grapes are grown in a variety of growing conditions from dryland farming to sandy soils. The wine is finished in French oak barrels for 16 months before getting an egg white fining and filtration. It’s a likeable wine that is very food friendly.

Grilled Perfection - Sosaties and Biryani Spiced Lamb Chops

Grilled Perfection – Sosaties and Biryani Spiced Lamb Chops

Asynpoeding (Vinegar Pudding) & Royal Chenin Blanc 2013:

For the perfect end to our South African Extravaganza, we finished with Asynpoeding (vinegar pudding). This is a classic dish and quite popular with South Africans. The name makes my mouth pucker, but is quite balanced with the vinegar and sweetness creating a perfect blend of sweet and sour. Apricots form the predominant flavor and are included in both the pudding and the vanilla sauce. With a dollop of ice cream, you have one of the best desserts ever! We paired this with a bottle of 2013 Royal Chenin Blanc purchased at Total Wine for $11.99. This wine is crisp, with notes of honeydew, pear, and tropical flowers and a 90-point rating from Robert Parker. This is definitely a must try and you can’t beat the price.

Asynpoeding (Vinegar Pudding)

Asynpoeding (Vinegar Pudding)

A very special thank you to Sarah from Curious Cuisinere for hosting Wine Pairing Weekend this month. Make sure to take a virtual vacation and visit all the great wine and food pairings the group has put together.

South African Wine Pairings

Here is a look at the wines and pairings the Wine Pairing Weekend group explored this month!

Coming Up for #WinePW

Our September #winePW theme will be “Grüner Veltliner Pairings,” on September 10th, 2016. The event will be hosted by Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, so keep an eye out for details!

Biryani Spice Mixture

Biryani Spice Mixture – so fragrant!

For a list of past and upcoming #winePW event, visit the Wine Pairing Weekend calendar. We’d love to have you online with us!

If you need a source to locate authentic food from South Africa:

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Biryani Spice Mixture
Recipe type: Spice Mixture
Cuisine: South African

  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon star anise
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon roasted chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Madras Curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated tomato powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh zest from mandarin or clementine oranges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh shallots, sliced and pan-fried dry

  1. Place the cardamom pods, star anise, dehydrated orange-lemon-lime zests, and coriander seeds and grind as finely as you can. Add the chili, curry and tomato powders. Add the fresh zest from the mandarin or clementine oranges and grind again. Lastly add the fried shallots, grind and reserve in glass container until use.