An ostrich is a strange-looking creature. It’s sort of like a cross between a splendidly feathered, buxom turkey, and a long-necked, leggy giraffe. Big bird? You betcha. Adults can weigh around 300lbs (140-ish kilos).
But despite their ‘defensive tackle’ size, they are seriously swift. They’re the world’s fastest thing on two legs. A quick one can hit over 40mph (70kph) on a sprint and set its long-distance cruise control to about 30mph / 50kmh.
Since they’re such speedsters, it’s perhaps no wonder they’re so lean. And that’s why their gloriously dark meat is so great to eat. Ostrich steaks are full of flavor and leaner (and healthier) than most red meats and even skinless chicken.
The best cuts are from their powerhouse thighs and are usually sold as either filets or medallions. The difference? None as far as I can tell in the eating. Costlier filet does have a uniform, clean-cut rounded shape in comparison to the more irregular form of less expensive medallions – which I buy. Either way, with less fat, cholesterol, and calories than skinless chicken, ostrich is one of the healthiest, most naturally-raised meats you can eat.
I love ostrich for its flavor, color, and texture. I rate its flavor alongside first-class rib-eye. Texture and tenderness are like very good sirloin – firm and finely grained. The color is a darker, bloody ruby red than either of those two prime cuts. Hard to believe this gets classed as ‘poultry.’
Not surprisingly, these qualities combine to make it incredibly rich. So, serving sizes need only be about three quarters that of a beef steak. Nine ounces of ostrich would be amply generous for a big-eating meat lover.
Perhaps even more so than top-drawer beef, rare is the way to eat it. As a pal of mine says: ‘Ostrich? Yes, please. And as rare as you dare!’
That’s what makes ostrich perfect for cooking very hot and very fast over direct heat on the braai or BBQ grill. A cast-iron griddle pan on a hob turned to high also works just fine.
Its intense richness means ostrich pairs really well with strongly-flavored sauces. My favorite is a fairly tart, simple, simmered-down reduction of oranges with ginger, garlic, maple syrup, and a little cinnamon.
Chili? Of course! Ostrich relishes the power of chili. That’s why hot sauce is an essential ingredient in the marinade. By pairing chili with ostrich, you get the best from both – the fiery bite of the hot pepper and the deeply meaty savour (umami if you must…) of the ostrich. These two heavyweights of the flavor world don’t compete with one another; they work together outstandingly well.
Like this recipe? You’ll love these too:
- Lion’s Head Meatballs With Crisp Chili Relish: Like your meatballs with some girth? These are sure to impress.
- Spicy Oxtail Stew: Slow-cooked to perfection – rich and spicy.
- Madagascar Steaks With Sakay, Lasary Voatabia, And Potato Salad: So much going on in this meal, and all of it is good.
Ostrich Steaks With Spicy Marinade And Citrus Sauce
The ostrich and its spicy marinade
The orange and ginger sauce
- 2 ounces salted butter
- 2 large oranges peeled, segmented, and with the pale pithy bits removed
- 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ginger root grated, heaped teaspoon
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
Prepping the ostrich
- Empty the meat and its juices into a bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. Give the lot a good stir, so the ostrich gets well coated in the marinade. Set aside for about 30 minutes while you make the orange and ginger sauce.
Cooking the sauce
- Melt the butter on medium-high heat in a saucepan. When it foams, add the orange segments, salt, and cinnamon. You’re looking to get a bit of color onto the outsides of the segments, so cook for about five minutes, turning them a few times. They will soften but be gentle in their turning so they don’t lose their shape.
- Next, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 90 seconds over that constant medium-high heat before adding the rest of the sauce ingredients. Bring it to a simmer and keep it that way for 15 minutes – with an occasional stir. You want the liquid to reduce and thicken to a syrupy consistency that barely drips from a spoon and gives a glossy coating to the orange segments. Done!
- Turn off the heat and put a top on the pan. Time now for the ostrich – and warming its serving dish.
Cooking the ostrich – hot and fast
- Quickly arrange the ostrich in a single layer on a grid over evenly spread hot coals. Leave well alone for three sizzling minutes – don’t fiddle with it. (You’ll see the ostrich starting to constrict a little and form into plump pillow shapes. That’s excellent.) Now turn the ostrich and, again, leave well alone for another three minutes. Cooked!
- Immediately take the ostrich off the heat and onto your warmed dish to rest for 90 seconds. Then plate it for your fellow diners and spoon the orange-segment sauce alongside it – not over it.