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For Valentine’s Day, South African food aficionado and gourmand Derick van Biljon, shares his take on an old-world icon we all know and love. “Carpaccio, is a great way to stretch a choice cut of beef, and dress it up for a delectably layered feast of flavours.” he  declares. Simple yet sophisticated. Easy to prepare but also robustly romantic. This recipe celebrates some stand-out local ingredients, and plants a Venetian classic firmly in the elemental soils of Africa’s Rainbow Nation.

A Recipe for Love and Happiness

KISS like you don’t care - is the best advice never given. Read that again and call me in the morning… In matters of the heart, it is wise to trust your gut, speak your mind, and Keep It Simple Stupid. Far be it for this un-attached foodie to volunteer commentary on the complexities of romantic aspirations, but each year (warranted or not) we all get the opportunity to contemplate the “L” word and all its terrific joys and tragedies.

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s brings the experience of human connection into our collective consciousness like no other calendar date. For better or for worse, it is a time that allows us to dream and take stock. A rare permission for hopeful declaration. An opportunity to strengthen heart bonds. To make love. To drink. To eat.

On February 14th, two-seaters across the globe will be on fast rotation to service the need for the perfect “romantic dinner”. The month of love seems to be synonymous with food, be it chocolate or langoustine, the tradition being one of obvious oral and sensual enjoyment.

When it comes to relationships, I can hardly give any measure of sound advice, but on food I have some educated opinions:

Simplicity is what I would prescribe. Three or four choice ingredients. Find the things you truly love and let them shine. Focus on those and the rest will follow. As seasons change, you might find other things that you adore. Don’t get stuck, explore and make space for new flavours and fresh ideas to add to your list.

Seasoning is key. Any chef worth their salt will tell you, the simpler a dish, the more refined the seasoning must be. Consider the balance in your tastes. Sweetness to temper acidity. Silky cream to compliment the spice. Pops of intensity to keep things interesting. Learn how to push the right buttons, so to speak. There is no right or wrong, have fun with it and experiment until you find the winning combinations.

We eat with our eyes first. The mind will taste a thing long before it crosses our lips. Even while a plate is in the making, all our senses are engaged. We smell, we see, we hear, we feel. Be mindful of this, for your own personal benefit foremost, the build-up is as vital as the bite. Every step of the way contributes to the final experience so make it all count.

Start with a clean slate, and let go of any preconceived notions. Honest food will speak for itself. It’s quality over quantity always! At times, authenticity is the hardest thing to achieve. We feel the need to smooth things over, or hide any imperfections - somehow dress it up to look more this or feel more that - just don’t. Trust your ingredients. Make sure they are the best you can get, and work with them. A perfectly shaped hot-house pepper isn't nearly as tasty as the sun ripened gnarly monster you grew yourself in your own garden. You must see the beauty in that, and enjoy what you have now, to the fullest.

Lastly, have something good to wash it all down with. A well considered tonic to ignite the butterflies in your tummies. The mind loves a reset, and so does the palate. Life can be hard, so our time together needn't be too serious. Having a pause for sips in between mouthfuls creates space for enjoyment, cleanses the taste buds, allows the senses to catch up, and builds new appreciation for the promise of the next delicious bite. It also means doing the cleaning up is a little more bearable, so save some for the house keeping and do the work in bits. Do the work together, and never go to bed with a dirty kitchen. Mornings are meant for new things, not stale ideas and dirty dishes.

To make the perfect plate of food is much like finding the perfect love. It takes awareness, courage, dedication, consideration, time, sensitivity, insight, joy, fun, grit and grind. Yes, and sometimes it needs just a little bit of luck, but it is ultimately an expression of joy, and so we be in the moment, we be present and we never stop trying.

This is my recipe for Love and Happiness. Now I will show you how to build a real South African Beef Carpaccio for your date on Valentines. In your own kitchen, with your own hands, at your own time.


Carpaccio is the culinary personification of simplicity. Traditionally it consists of chilled slices of beef filet, capers, parmesan, rocket, olive oil and lemon juice. Created in the 1950’s at the famed Harry's Bar in Venice, for the Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo after her physician recommended that she avoid cooked meats, Giuseppe Cipriani invented a classic dish that has seen iterations on restaurant menus the world over.

My first introduction to carpaccio - not served in a restaurant or from a vacuum sealed packet (laced with preservatives no doubt) - was at a friend's house long after dinner had ended and most of the guests had departed. Our conversation turned to cooking, as we are both enthusiastic foodies, and suddenly he asked ‘Would you like some carpaccio?’

Of course I said yes! The scene in his kitchen was captivating. Out of the freezer a chunk of meat wrapped in cling film appeared. Impossibly thin slithers were carved and arranged on a small plate, a few drizzles and sprinkles and something green. He poured a glass of champagne and said ‘Enjoy’ handing me the taster.

Love at first bite is an understatement. The mouth experience was exquisite! The beef, exceptionally delicate and busting with meaty flavour. The acid from the lemon, salt from the capers, peppery herb from the rocket and the fudgy sweetness from the parmesan, all lubricated with a prima olive oil, played an overture in my mouth. Surprisingly, the Brut Chardonnay paired perfectly with these flavours. Red meat doesn't necessarily mean red wine. Especially with the freshness in this beautiful dish.

My take on Beef Carpaccio is slightly more evolved, but still true to its personality. Drawing on local ingredients, it celebrates a selection of South African hero brands, each bringing its distinctive established character to this classic continental icon.


A simple recipe requires ingredients of marked quality, do your best to find the best and start as you mean to finish.

The filet was sourced from Wild Kalahari Mindful Meat Co. Multi pastoral free range beef, from long-life individuals that are sustainably reared, are dry aged with dedicated care. The filet is extracted from the quarter after about 28 days of maturation. The flavour and texture is exquisite, and there is good reason why Jacques van der Merwe’s meat is served in almost every award winning restaurant across South Africa. Visit their website to find a retail outlet or order for shipping https://www.kalahariwild.co.za/

Acidity is a crucial aspect in the classic carpaccio recipe. To that end I make a pesto verde using Rozendal Fynbos Balsamic Vinegar, made from a blend of red wine cultivars and activated by an indigenous “mother” culture originating from the late 80s. Naturally infused with buchu, honeybush tea, rose geranium, wild olive & wild rosemary, it holds a hint of natural sweetness. Rozendal’s balsam is organically fermented and matured in oak barrels. A delectably versatile addition to any pantry. I have been using Rozendal vinegar for many years and I can highly recommend that you explore their beautiful artisanal range https://www.rozendalvinegar.com/

Traditional carpaccio is made with unseasoned beef, but I like to create a dry rub of carne-herbs, pepper and salt to flash-cure the filet. Oryx Desert Salt is a proudly South African purveyor with conscious and sustainable harvesting practices. Their smoked Kalahari salt lends a delicate roundedness to my take on this dish. Non-abrasive and pure, this salt has a far more gentle feel on the tongue than one might expect, and for my money a worthy addition to any cook’s spice rack. Go read more about them, they are a hero local brand and worth your attention https://oryxdesertsalt.com/about-us/

This recipe could be paired with dry bubbles, rosè or a fruity red, but the Albertus Viljoen 2021 Chenin Blanck is the champion here. Fermented in oak, this Barrel Select is an Alvis Drift’s flagship with elegant, rich and velvety notes and a full complex palate. Ripe fruit characters follow through from the nose, and blooms out to a lingering finish. I have fallen into a deep love affair since first tasting the 2016 two years ago - and yes, this Chenin can handle aging up to 5 years, getting even more complex and individualistic. No lies, Alvi’s Drift is one of the best in the pantheon of South African wines currently being produced https://alvisdrift.co.za/


With pesto verde, horseradish aioli, capers, rocket and parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8

Prep time 20 min


For the Filet:

  • 700g Dry aged Wild Kalahari filet of beef, dressed and trimmed
  • Herbs: 10g parsley, 5g rosemary, 5g thyme
  • Oryx Smoked Desert Salt - a very generous grind
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

For the Pesto Verde:

  • 20g Wild Rocket
  • 5g parsley, 5g sweet basil, 5g thyme (lemon thyme if you have)
  • 30 ml Rozendal Fynbos Vinegar
  • 60 ml Olive oil
  • 10 g toasted almonds
  • 10 g brined capers
  • The zest of one lemon
  • 10 g Grated hard cheese - pecorino or parmesan
  • Fresh cracked black pepper and salt (if needed)

For the plating:

  • 20 g wild or baby rocket.
  • Some caper berries (or normal capers)
  • Shavings of Parmesan cheese (get the good stuff)
  • Olive oil
  • Wedges of fresh lemon.

OPTIONAL Horseradish aioli:

  • 2 free range or organic egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. Grated fresh or 2 tsp. preserved horseradish
  • 0.5 tsp. Dejon mustard
  • The juice of one lemon
  • Fresh cracked black pepper and salt
  • 60 ml canola or extra virgin olive oil.


For the Filet:

  • Prepare the filet from the packaging by rinsing it under cold running water. Blot dry and massage 30ml of vinegar over its surface. Allow to rest for 10 min in the fridge while preparing the herb rub - Good quality filet from a trusted supplier probably doesn't need this step, but as you have that beautiful vinegar at hand, so you might as well add the flavour and the peace of mind.
  • Wash the herbs and dry thoroughly. Chop semi-fine by hand or in a food processor.
  • Dust a clean working surface with the herb mix, add generous amounts of Oryx Smoke Desert Salt and black pepper, over an area large enough for the filet to be rolled in.
  • Blot any excess moisture from the filet with a paper towel, and roll in the herb and salt mixture, making sure to evenly cover the meat.
  • Set uncovered in the fridge for three hours, then wrap tightly in clingfilm, compressing an even thickness along the length of the filet.
  • Place in the freezer for 45-60 min before plating.

For the Pesto Verde:

  • Simply blitz all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Test for seasoning and adjust any of the elements to your taste, allow to develop for 15 min before plating.

For the Horseradish aioli:

  • Place everything except the oil in a blender or food processor. Start the machine and blitz for 1 min. Then start adding the oil in a thin stream while blending, until the aioli has thickened. Taste for seasoning and acidity.

Once your filet is well firmed-up (just before freezing point) it is time to assemble the carpaccio. Find an attractive platter or lage plate and chill that in the freezer as well. Unwrap the meat and cut thin slices, some like it paper thin but I prefer cuts of about 5 mm. Using the ball of your palm, flatten each slice further with outward pressure, you could use the flat of a chef’s knife blade to thin them out even more. Don't worry if some tear up a little they will still look and be delicious.

Arrange the filet slices on the platter overlapping slightly. At this stage you could cover the platter and refrigerate (advisable in warm weather). When serving, add dollops of the pesto verde and aioli randomly on top of the meat. Cut the caper berries in half lengthwise and spread over the platter (ideally one half-piece for each slice) Add the parmesan shavings and rocket. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper. Serve with toasted bread and a squeeze of fresh lemon just before eating.

Each bite should have a little bit of everything on it. Enjoy with frequent sips of very well chilled Albertus Viljoen 2021 Chenin Blanc. Having a second bottle on standby is a good idea, a platter of carpaccio is a surprisingly leisurely affair.


  • The prepared filet can be kept frozen for up to 6 months if stored correctly. Transfer it to the fridge two hours before serving and enjoy when so inclined.
  • If your date is not allergic to fish, add three or four anchovy filets to the pesto verde, it adds a grounded umami that will harmonize with any meat dish or bite.
  • To watch a video demonstration on how to prep and plate the carpaccio, visit my instagram feed and find the valentines reel we created. @foodie.south.africa
Spot the iconic Oryx horns on restaurant tables and in retail stores nationwide. South African customers can find Oryx Desert Salt in premium Woolworths stores, Cape Union Mart, Pick ‘n Pay, Food Lovers Market, Dischem and Spar as well as most health shops and deli’s countrywide.

Also available in Whole Foods Market stores in the USA, Namibia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Germany, UK, Taiwan, Nigeria and launching in Australia next.
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