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26 June 2009

Imagine a red meat as tasty as Brazilian picanha and as healthy as fish. It is ostrich, also called the "fillet of the future". With a soft texture and a light flavour, it has 1/3 of the calories of beef.

With Lisbon in the middle of 'sardine season' and June promising a scorching summer, this week the Terraço restaurant at Hotel Tivoli Lisbon decided to suggest something different: "Ostrich à la carte & à la mode", a food show starring ostrich meat raised in South Africa and exported all over the world with exclusive recipes presented by chef Peter Goffe-Wood, also known as a "food alchemist". This constitutes a challenge for someone who hasn't eaten red meat for six years and has already forgotten the taste of a juicy underdone steak. However, with the city and the Tagus river in the background and the panoramic view of the restaurant delighting our eyes and our souls, the challenge was accepted.

Before my first mouthful, the chef explains all there is to know about ostrich meat, in a well paced presentation similar to that of a modern TV programme. Quickly the room fills with different smells and before us we have the three dishes that are to be slowly relished: spicy ostrich tartar, with red onion, capers, rosemary, paprika and soy sauce; smoked ostrich with mango and other fruits; and ostrich fillet with a corn cake and sour fig sauce. All of this served with the best South African wines, brought from a country that has already celebrated more than 300 years of wine making: Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (white) and Nabygelegen Vintage 2005 (red).

And if the first bite tasted a bit foreign, by the end of the main course I was won over. There's no way to avoid it: it's meat we're talking about and it is red meat, in the true sense of the word, that we are eating. Yet, the texture is soft, the flavour is light and it is rich in proteins and iron, with much less calories, fat and cholesterol than chicken, beef, pork or lamb. "As tasty as Brazilian picanha and as healthy as fish", it is called the "fillet of the future". Ostrich meat delights the most demanding food lovers and the most famous chefs. In South Africa, where it is produced (and even entitled to an Ostrich Business Chamber which was responsible for this food show in Portugal), it may cost up to 12 Euros per kilo, a price that can double as soon as it is exported to European countries such as France, Spain, Germany and Russia. The demand is such that South Africa annually exports 4400 tons of ostrich meat to Europe.

Source: Bárbara Silva

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