I was really inspired by this theme. A few months ago I went on a hunt to find new risotto ideas as I always seemed to be making mushroom risotto and nothing else! I had found a recipe for chorizo risotto but on the night I felt like risotto, we had no chorizo in the house. We had, however, had a barbecue the previous night and I had some leftover meat, including a coil of boerewors. Let me explain about boerewors. I am not a big eater of meat and I can go months without eating red meat quite happily. But the one thing I do eventually crave is boerewors. It’s a South African thing. Literally translated, boerewors (say boo-ruh-vors and try rolling the r’s a little) means “farmers’ sausage”, and it looks like a very long Cumberland ring sausage as it is always sold in a coil rather like a large, savory coil of liquorice. But appearance is as far as the similarity goes. Boerewors is made of several types of meat – usually a combination of beef, lamb and pork, but sometimes ostrich or game meat – combined with cubed pork fat (“spekvet”) and natural preservatives such as vinegar and spices (coriander seeds play a large part!). Each butcher has their own recipe for making the best boerewors and in most supermarkets in South Africa you will find a number of different types – but beware as these can vary vastly in quality! The best types are free from artificial preservatives and have a high meat content (as opposed to inferior types that can contain offal, bonemeal and soya). No SA barbecue is complete without it and on any given Saturday morning there will be someone selling “boerie rolls” (hot dogs made with bbq’d boerewors instead of viennas) outside your local supermarket, with the smell driving you crazy the minute you get out of the car! So when we came to England, it was the one of the few things I craved. Oh sure, you could buy it at Harrods and Fortnums – if you were willing to pay the crazy prices this involved, but generally we confined our boerewors eating to trips home. And then, last year a marvellous thing happened. We discovered packs of the stuff at a South African shop in London! And from there we tracked it down to the butcher that makes it – Web Butchers in Southfields (10 Montfort Place, London SW19 6QL, tel. 020 87882959). They do plain and garlic flavoured wors and both are absolutely delicious – just enough spices, not too much fat – heaven on mashed potatoes!! So now boerewors is once again a reasonably regular part of our culinary repertoire. (Incidentally, if you are more adventurous than I am and interested in making your own, click here for a recipe.)
OK, so back the IMBB. I decided to try the risotto recipe with boerewors instead of chorizo and it worked out great, but I felt that it needed something a bit sweet as a counterpoint to the spicy boerewors – and so I turned to another item that I used to eat all the time at home but struggled to find in the UK – butternut squash. When we were first in the UK I was so desperate for butternut that when I saw one at Harvey Nichols, I bought it – for £4!! This is an insane amount of money to pay for one medium butternut, but I paid it gladly – and now you can get them in ASDA! Progress is a beautiful thing.
So without further ado, here is my robust African risotto, featuring 2 of the ingredients that I associate most strongly with home. It has turned out to be absolutely delicious – when I go digital I will post some pics.
BOEREWORS AND BUTTERNUT RISOTTO (serves 3-4)
1 medium butternut squash
5 cups beef stock
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
350g boerewors (more if you want a meatier dish)
1 Tbs rosemary
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
100 ml red wine
5 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel and seed the squash and dice the flesh into 2cm cubes. Toss the cubes in sufficient olive oil to coat them thoroughly, place them in a large, shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle with rosemary. Roast for 20 minutes or until slightly brown at the edges.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the boerewors. Brown on one side, then turn over and brown the other side before adding a little water, covering and simmering till cooked. Remove from the pan and slice into 5mm thick slices. (You may want to halve each slice into half moons)
In a heavy-based saucepan, fry the onion in the butter until the onions are soft and golden. Add the rice and garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the red wine and when all the liquid has been absorbed, add the beef stock gradually, half a cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Continue until all the stock is finished and the rice is cooked al dente and creamy in consistency.
Stir in the cheese, butternut and the boerewors and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a green leaf and herb salad.