NI beef a tasty blend with flavours of Southern Africa – Belfast News Letter

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Entrepreneurial couple Ilse and Alanagh van Standen are taking the distinctive flavours of southern Africa on the road here to boost sales of their delicious biltong, cured and air dried beef strips and other cured meats from a farm base in Ballyclare.
The couple own Ke Nako, a small business specialising in award-winning dry-cure beefy snacks that have won UK Great Taste Awards and Blas na hEireann Irish National Food Awards over the past six years.
They’ve recently invested in a well-equipped food truck which they’ve been taking around food and farmers’ markets here including last week’s successful Honey Fair at Hillsborough.
Ilse, originally from Pretoria in South Africa, explains: “We decided to develop our own food truck as a way of reaching a much wider audience and introducing many more people to biltong, droewors and other cured meats from my homeland. We’ve found that people love the snacks at markets and subsequently look for them especially on our farm shop and online. We believe there’s tremendous scope to encourage more people to sample our cured meats. Biltong or other South African cured meats are not widely appreciated here. So, we’ve decided to take the products to local people here and in the Republic.”
Ilse, an experienced chef and butcher.
“We take particular pride that all our beef is sourced from Northern Ireland farms and thereby contribute to the economy here,” she adds.
Ke Nako has since won respect throughout the UK and Ireland for the biltong products as healthier snacks rich in minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B-12, all essential for the body to function. They formed the artisan business in 2016 and have gone from strength and strength over the past six years.
They have created a unique biltong recipe from organic beef, brisket and silverside that’s cured in organic red wine vinegar with a rich blend of spices from salt, black pepper, coriander seeds, nutmeg, and cloves before being air-dried in dedicated premises on the farm.
The popular couple, who has become key innovators in the artisan food industry here, has also teamed up with Dr Trouble Sauces from a farm in Zimbabwe to create a really tasty barbecue snack, ideal for the summer.
“Dr Trouble chilli sauces are excellent and ideal especially for barbecues,” Ilse explains. “The sauces are another distinctive and richly flavoured product from southern Africa.”
Dr Trouble Sauces have recently gone on sale here. They are produced on a chilli farm in northern Zimbabwe by Robert Fletcher. The chillies are grown on the farm and the sauces are produced using fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. There are no artificial preservatives, thickeners or colorants in the sauces which have been produced in the Zambezi region for generations. The sauces are now in sale in many international markets especially the US.
The award-winning snacks from Ke Nako – Africaans for it is time – are various flavours of biltong and droewors, a coiled and spicy beef sausage. The Co Antrim company cleaned up in the snacks category in the national competition for cured meats organised in conjunction with the influential UK Charcuterie Board.
In addition to the top award in the competition for its classic biltong, the enterprising small business collected all the other awards in the category for its chilli biltong, garlic biltong and droewors which are widely enjoyed in South Africa especially at barbeques. The company also produces other cured meats including chorizo and salami.
The innovation-led couple, who have a three-year old son, Alexander, are considering developing a franchise business of distinctive food trucks.
Both are also enthusiastic rugby players and have represented Ulster and Ireland.
The biltong and droewors have all been developed by Ilse using family recipes from her homeland. She runs the farm’s butchery and popular farm shop. Alanagh, a further education college lecturer, plays a key role in marketing the business and its portfolio of premium products.
Ke Nako is now a leader in charcuterie meats here. It’s a sector which has been developing steadily over the past 10 years and has seen a number of new producers which have also won awards for quality and taste.
They also love working with other smaller producers. “We get to work with some of the best local produce Northern Ireland has to offer. Producers here are so passionate about what they do and it really sparks us to be an essential link in the organic field.”

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