Unusual meats, it seems, are the in thing these days. From Aldi’s venture, briefly, into the exclusive world of wagyu beef, through fitness pioneers attempting to make zero-fat zebra chops happen, to KFC dipping its gouty toes into the concept of pulled chicken, it seems there’s no beast too exotic and no preparation too rarefied.
So now, with the news that Aldi will be selling it at £4.99 for two 150g steaks from today, is it finally ostrich’s time in the sun?
There’s a lot to love about ostrich meat; it’s low in cholesterol and fat and, despite being made of bird, the meat is red – a shade or two darker than good beef when raw. Nutritionists reckon it has less than half the calories than beef.
And while the fastest thing on two legs is versatile enough to survive most climates, it is farmed in particular by – who else – South Africa.
In truth however, humans have been eating the flightless bird for thousands of years, amongst other things. Arsinoë II, who ruled Egypt in the third century BC and apparently competed in chariot races at the Olympics, is depicted riding an ostrich in a tomb painting. The Romans, too, hunted them, fought them in the circus, and ate them. And much earlier than that, the tribes of the Kalahari desert would use their eggshells to store water.
Nowadays, when we’re not eating them, we race them, especially in the States and in South Africa, or use their feathers for dusters and their hides for tough, high-quality leather. Chances are the seats in your mid-range SUV are upholstered in ostrich.
So how does it taste? Aldi’s effort, which is sold as free range, as opposed to whatever battery-farming ostriches might look like, has a very distinctive flavour. It’s quite gamey and has a pronounced tang, and is much stronger than a chicken or beef. This will make it a little harder to pair with certain ingredients, and it might limit your options. We had ours with oven chips, as the Bushmen of the Kalahari might once have done.
It’s so lean as to be chewy, and it lacks the creaminess that the fat in a good beef steak might provide, but your arteries will be obliged.
In terms of preparation, you have to be a bit careful as this lack of fat can cause the meat to dry out. It’s best eaten rare to medium rare, which requires no more than two to three minutes’ cooking on either side. A marinade – as with which Aldi’s ostrich comes pre-slathered – is usually recommended to keep the meat moist, so you don’t end up chewing your own jaw off.
Ostrich is in a lot of ways the perfect farm animal. They herd easily, they’re hardy enough to survive the weather in Alaska and, for the ecologically minded, they have the best feed-to-weight ratio of any land animal.
One thing they don’t do, though, is hide their heads in the sand. They are after all the fastest animals on two legs; if you could run as fast as 45mph, you’d also probably spend less time hiding from your predators than leaving them for dust.
With such a strong flavour, ostrich probably isn’t entirely going to replace beef fillets in City boy restaurants, and it’s never going to trump the flexibility of chicken as a meat that goes with anything. But it's worth trying, so don’t put your head in the sand on this one.Reuse content