Hmmm … lekker … Game!

By Helga and Larry Hampton [email protected]

Helga and Larry Hampton, a German-American couple, have had a villa in the Algarve since 1972 and since 1990 have spent the majority of their time in Portugal. One of Helga’s major interests is cooking. One of Larry’s main interests is eating, and finding lovely wines to complement, Helga’s meals. In their new monthly column, the couple share their passion for good food and wine with our readers.

Do you want to expand your horizons? Yes? Then travel! And the further away from your, however dear, appreciated and beloved four corners you venture, the greater the experience.

Until recently, I personally had always held that I needed no more varied and stimulating input into my brain than what was to be had within Europe. Dear old, multi-lingual, multi-cultural Europe. . .

Ah, what a narrow-minded idée fixe! We don’t even have wide horizons between the Alps and Pyrenees and the sky scrapers of London and Frankfurt, the domes of Rome and the minarets of Constantinople … you have to go to Africa to know that there is a lot more space to be filled between your ears.

Larry and I have just returned from that continent. The world opened up to us in Namibia, where the sun sank into the Atlantic Ocean –  the waves of which lap at the red sand of one desert, the Namib, having risen many hours earlier over another desert, the Kalahari.

And the sky above, this vast expanse, a wondrous knowing, glowing canopy, star-studded and vaulted at night like no European night sky, and not only because that dominant constellation up there is not the Big Dipper – it is the Southern Cross.

And Southern Africa is where modern man has given over to the four-legged original inhabitants (indigenous inhabitants like the “Big Five” – elephant, lion, rhino, giraffe, hippo) many large areas of this arid land in nature reserves, at the same time inviting two-legged tourists to marvel at them from luxurious lodges.

A Springbok on the hoof.
A Springbok on the hoof.

Safari tourism is now a huge industry – as far as Namibia is concerned the largest – and accommodation, service and restaurants in many places are five star.

In other, privately farmed areas, smaller animals proliferate and hunting, the noble “sport”, comes into its own by supervising and regulating growth as well as bringing game to the tables of gourmets. Springbok, Oryx, Eland, Kudu and a number of other antelope species, but also wild pork (warthogs), appear on discerning menus.

In Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, we had a culinary experience worth sharing with you. I shall dispense with giving a specific recipe, as you might have some difficulty finding Springbok or Eland in your supermarket, but venison and/or stag might double nicely in some of these suggestions.

Just enjoy the rich ideas and, perhaps, incorporate one or the other in your next autumn dinner menu.  

Imagine a starter like…

Marc Kent, the Boekenhoutskloof winemaker.
Marc Kent, the Boekenhoutskloof winemaker.

Finely sliced Carpaccio of Eland antelope, enriched with Parmesan Chips and Fresh Ruccola Salad with Walnut-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Main courses like…

Tenderloin of the noble Springbok-Antelope, grilled,accompanied by Cocoa Risotto, with warm Morello Cherries and garden-fresh Broccoli, complemented with a Merlot Jus.

Desserts like …

• Chilli and Spice-stewed Guavas and Meringue on Merlot Sherbet

• Dark Chocolate and Almond Shards with Citrus Trio

• Rooibos Crème Caramel And

Toffee Apple

The menu at the Heinitzburg Hotel, Windhoek’s finest, certainly expanded my horizons as far as imaginative combination of food, presentation of courses and mixture of ingredients are concerned and I found myself liberated and thinking outside the box.

I am very glad I travelled so far in order to have my kitchen vistas enlarged.

Helga’s tip of the day:

All game is hung for at least 21 days before it comes to the market.  You can still enhance tenderness by marinating the meat, submerging it totally in buttermilk overnight. Clean off before cooking and discard buttermilk. Never fails!

The Chocolate Block wine.
The Chocolate Block wine.


For a newcomer to Southern Africa like me, sitting down to a meal of Springbok is a mind-blowing experience. I wanted to find a local wine that would do the best possible job of complementing this (to me) exotic game.

And on the next to last day of our tour around the winelands of the Western Cape I found it. In Franschhoek, we visited Boekenhoutskloof, a winery with a name that translates as “Beech Tree Valley” but which isso unpronounceable (unless you’re Cape Dutch) that the locals call it simply BHK.

The BHK farm was founded in 1776 in the French Huguenot area of Franschhoek, and over the years grew a great variety of fruits and vegetables (but never grapes).

It was in 1993 that a group of six guys bought the farm and planted vines. A year later the winemaker, Marc Kent, became the seventh partner. The first wines were released in 1996. From 6,000 bottles that first year sales have mushroomed to four million now.

BHK is the highest rated South African winery in the latest edition of Robert Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide and it has received 11 five-star ratings in the John Platter South African Wine Guide, which says: “The BHK star is in the ascendancy…”

We were lucky enough to be shown around by Marc himself. With his guidance, we tasted all his wines, which are grouped under four labels. The top of the range is Boekenhoutskloof, which includes the exceptional Journeyman (a blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, of which only three barrels were made this year) and the brilliant single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon.

The bigger volume and more popularly priced brands are the Porcupine Ridge range of six wines and The Wolftrap range of three wines. These wines sell at the equivalent of €4-6 and are sensational value for extremely drinkable whites and reds.

But the wine that caught our eye and tickled our palate is called The Chocolate Block.

Taste Magazine in South Africa said: “At last, South Africa has a “rock star” wine. The Chocolate Block oozes sex appeal and is gaining popularity very quickly since its first release in 2002”.

It actually is a blend of two-thirds Syrah (which gives it a spicy, aromatic profile), Grenache Noir (to give fruit, texture and freshness), Cabernet Sauvignon (structure), Cinsaut (juicy fruit) and a dash of Viognier (for nose and overall opulence). The result is matured in French oak for 18 months. Strangely, in view of the name, it is very hard to discern any chocolaty or cocoa taste, but hey, it tastes so good and has such a long, elegant and succulent finish that all is forgiven.

It is particularly the spicy Syrah flavour that goes so very well with game in general and Springbok in particular. And I don’t just mean “game” as in wild beasts, but also “game” as in football. The world cup winning Spanish team consumed 50 cases of The Chocolate Block while they were in South Africa in 2010! Can this have been their secret weapon?

Unfortunately, BHK does not distribute in Portugal (very few better SA wineries do) but the UK is one of their best export markets. If you see it in store in Britain, buy it!