I ate ostrich with awesome sauce for lunch yesterday.
No, I haven’t misspelled oysters – I did actually mean the rather silly, large big-eyed bird that lives over most of the African continent. Why did I eat ostrich? Primarily, because it was there, in my fridge and I needed lunch – and it was there in my fridge because it was available (imported from South Africa as steaks), and because I didn’t remember trying ostrich before, so I thought I would.
I heated my trusty cast iron pan, salted and peppered the steaks (I had read that ostrich is essentially a red meat and shouldn’t be treated like poultry, but rather like duck breast or fillet of beef), and pan-seared them to about medium. Usually I like my meats rare, but when approaching an unfamilar meat, medium seemed a safer bet. I let the steaks rest a bit, made a simple salad of flat-leaf parsley greens, baby tomatoes, cucumber and a balsamic vinaigrette, plated that out, and sliced the steaks to serve alongside.
What did I think of ostrich? Two things, actually – one, that it’s a nice enough meat – sort of like a milder beef, or venison without the gaminess, and that if I were living in Africa and it was cheap, I would perhaps eat it occasionally. It has a lovely tender texture and a nice sweet flavor. And, two, that it’s not an interesting enough meat that I’d pay premium to buy it in Scandinavia flown all the way from South Africa. For those who really like it – certainly, and I do know a lot of people who’d probably love it since they find the ‘harsher’ gamy meats too strong. Personally, I’d rather buy reindeer, venison, duck breasts, guinea fowl or the like. I suspect I simply like my ‘exotic’ meats to be a little more exotic. And please don’t take me wrong – Craig’s ostrich is well-trimmed, looks and tastes fine, and is well-packed to keep it fresh, as you can see from the photos. So if it’s ostrich you seek, and you seek it in Finland, Mr. Craig Beckley in Helsinki, he of the awesome sausages can set you up.
However, despite my lack of interest in ostrich as a meat (I’d rather buy springbok if it comes to SA imports, which Craig also supplies), I really enjoyed the meal. Why? Because I had a jar of T-Barbeque’s T*Mun Saunakastike (Sauna Sauce) in my fridge, and that thing is not only amazing with any great meat – it does what a great sauce is designed to do, helps make an amazing meal even out of a meat I think is ‘just nice’.
What is T-Barbeque? T-Barbeque is a company founded a guy named Teemu Peltonen here in Jyväskylä (Disclaimer – yes, I know him personally, and consider him a friend, but I’d never plug his sauce if it weren’t good and I weren’t buying and eating it myself on a regular basis. End disclaimer). Teemu had studied culinary arts, and, frustrated by excessive use of unnecessary additives and prevalence of flat-flavored sauces, started to make his own. And his own sauce was so good that he decided to sell it. And so T-Barbeque was born. And the tastebuds rejoyced.
The range of sauces isn’t huge, but like with most good businesses, T-Barbeque makes few things, but it makes them really well. My particular favorites in the range are T*Mun Naga and the aforementioned Sauna Sauce. The Naga is wonderfully hot (warning – anything with ‘naga’ in the name should be approached with caution by those who haven’t tried it before, but I have a moderate tolerance to capsaicin and it isn’t too hot for me), with a lovely tastebud-tingling burn but without unpleasant stinging, with an underlying sharp-sweet tomato base. I rather like it brushed on grilled sausages, or as a component of a marinade for red meats. It’s not your ‘average’ vinegar-and-chili hot sauce, but rather it’s a sauce you can serve as it is from the jar (or poured out into a pretty serving dish for dipping!), to round out a serving of meat.
However, if I had to pick a favorite among the sauces in the range, my heart belongs firmly to the T*Mun Sauna Sauce. Sauna sauce is fairly sweet and rich, without the searing heat of the Naga sauce, and its central note is natural woosmoke (hence the ‘sauna’ in the name), which makes it both, an amazing sauce to grill with, and an even better all-round sauce to eat with. And, not unexpectedly, it both, brightened up the ostrich meat, and went rather well with its mild sweetness and delicate flavor without overpowering it. It’s richly flavored, but on the other hand, mild enough to make a fantastic dipping sauce for anything from French Fries to fancy fritters or toasted ravioli at a party – something that I now think I really should utilize in the coming holiday season!
So if you are in Finland, and you want a really, really good all-purpose sauce for barbecue, or for dipping things, or brushing on your meats and sausages as you eat, you should hunt these down. Locally, they are available in Mestarin Herkku in Jyväskylä city centre, or directly from Teemu himself at Toivolan Vanha Piha monthly market days. Craig’s shop in Helsinki also stocks them, and of course they can be bought online. If you can get to a place where you can taste them – Toivolan Vanha Piha, then just go through the entire range and find your favorite, but if you want to try the range and are looking at the lineup of jars on a shop shelf – please, please try the Sauna Sauce! I know I am biased in saying so, but I love the stuff and I think you will, too! And if you love that one, and want more heat, then the range of the hotter stuff will definitely be the ticket!
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go turn on the oven, make myself some sausages and go nuts with the aforementioned Sauna Sauce all over those for lunch. Hungry me signing out!