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Oryx Goulash and Kalahari Truffles - Namibian Dishes

March 30, 2011

Tags: food, antelope, Bantu tribes, beans – green, carrots, coleslaw, family secrets, French truffles, goulash, Hungarian goulash, Kalahari Desert, Kalahari truffles, Oryx Goulash and Kalahari Truffles - Namibian Dishes, mushrooms, Namibia, Namibian Dishes, olive grove, olive oil, Oryx Goulash, Ovambos, pork belly - smoked, rainy season, rice, savannah, sweet potatoes – caramelized, truffles, vegetables, vinegar, yogurt

Namibians have, because of their relative lack of vegetable farming, more meat (and no fish) in their diet – similar to Patagonia. Here are two dishes I especially liked:

Kalahari truffles
During rainy season – of which we surely got the brunt – Kalahari truffles pop up everywhere in the savannah. They are extremely tasty and sought after. But don’t think they will be showing easily: They make themselves noticeable by a tiny crack in the ground, and that crack is extremely hard to find, especially this year, with the very high grasses after the heavy rains.

Our friends live at the skirts of the Kalahari Desert but don’t find the truffles themselves. Ovambos collect the mushrooms that look more or less like sandy potato. The Ovambos are a loose connection of Bantu tribes, and make up the majority of people in Namibia; white people hover around six percent. So, politically, the political power is securely in Ovambo hands.

I’m not sure if the Ovambos follow their noses; the Kalahari truffle has that exquisite earthy aroma I know so well from European mushrooms, predominantly the so-called steinpilz (stone mushroom). One Ovambo woman seemed to be the expert; she offered several loads of truffles, all of which we gladly bought. She might have known the places where the truffles thrive - family secrets handed down in families from generation to generation.

We had a feast with Kalahari truffles, which need to be scrubbed extensively – but in truth, one never gets rids of the sand completely – and peeled. Inside they are light-colored, not black like French truffles. When cooked, they have firm flesh. We sautéed the mushrooms in olive oil with onions and ground oryx (antelope) meat. Side dishes: green beans and caramelized sweet potatoes. - Leftover mushroom are peeled, blanched and frozen, to be used later.

Oryx Goulash
Oryx are the most abundant meat deliverers in the area where I stayed with my friends. Without them, neither the white people nor the Ovambos could survive in Namibia. The goulash was made again with lots of onions and plenty of olive oil. Wild animals have no visible fat, so oryx dishes require much olive oil. My friends had harvested the oil themselves, under much hardship – hoeing the large olive grove by hand. The onions and the meat simmered for about two hours with pepper, salt and thyme until the goulash was just right – tomatoes might have made the goulash more Hungarian, I guess. We served the goulash with rice and two different kinds of coleslaw: one with carrots and yogurt, one with smoked pork belly and vinegar.
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