“Our Country Cuisine series takes you on a culinary tour through South Africa to bring you the essence of what can be defined as historical yet traditional local foodie treasures. Bringing you this taste of adventure is Raymond du Plessis, our tough man from Tuffstuff Insurance.”
Ina van Rooyen is the Steve Irvin of the Vaal Dam. Deneysville’s very own Krokodil-tannie. Ina owns and runs the Crocodile and Lion Ranch in Deneysville, Free State, and boy oh boy, can she make a mean crocodile steak and croc pie!
Text and photography: Leilani Basson
Everybody in the Deneysville area knows Ina van Rooyen. She’s the friendly face behind the success of the Crocodile and Lion Ranch that she and her husband, Charles, started many moons ago.
Ina’s is also the friendly face behind the bar, and in the kitchen and on tours with visitors who come to view the thousands of crocodiles they breed for their leather.
The five lions on the property, which recently produced two cubs, are the other huge attraction. But many people come here just for Ina. Locals confide in her after a hard day’s work. She gives advice on sick animals and she’s always ready to offer a helping hand, whatever the problem.
Being a boervrou, Ina can handle most things. Indeed, any woman who can slaughter and skin a crocodile, and hand rear lion cubs, must be the mother of multi-tasking and improvisation.
“The restaurant, serving really good food, just had to happen in order for us to own the crocodiles and lions,” says Ina. “We had to offer something for tourists so that we could qualify for permits. So that’s what we did. What started out as a small operation soon took over our lives and to our surprise, this is what we do fulltime today. We run a crocodile ranch, a restaurant and pub. And we are busy, busy, busy.”
It’s not hard to see why. Somehow one just feels at home, right there at the enormous sleeper wood bar – whether this dark kind of pub is your thing or not.
Ina and Nicky….., the manager cum bar lady cum waitress cum everybody’ favourite girl in town, make you feel like staying and just taking time out. You know you should be going home; you have work to do; your spouse is waiting… but one way or another you find a reason to stay. You want to chat to Ina and Nicky, share in the jokes and chit-chat with the locals, who stroll in one after the other and have a dop – be it hardehout or good wine.
Then Ina offers you a friendly puff of hubbly bubbly…. Ag, Ina is almal se pel.
The ranch’s food is great. It is only to be expected that the Krokodil-tannie would excel at crocking up a magic dish from crocodile meat. Crocodile potjie, crocodile sosaties, crocodile burgers, crocodile pie and crocodile steak. The latter is a winner. Succulent, tasty, flavourful, great texture. It’s a must. And don’t worry if you can’t find a source of croc meat. Ina will help you.
Crocalicious croc steak
What you need:
Two crocodile steaks (the cuts from the tail work best)
Salt and pepper to taste
What you do:
Grill steaks on open fire. Brush with basting made of egg, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Turn the steak over a few times and brush generously with basting. Take note that crocodile meat can dry out very quickly, so be sure to take it off the flames the instant the meat looks white and tender.
Serve with salad and baked potato.
Croc in the doc pie
What you need:
Crocodile meat (cut into pieces)
Pinch of curry powder
1 chopped onion
Pinch of ground coriander
Pinch of maizina
Pinch of salt
1 tbs oil
What you do:
Stir fry the pieces of crocodile meat with the chopped onion in oil and add spices. Do not overcook. Let it cool down. Roll out pastry dough on a floured surface. Cut in big enough pieces to be able to fill the dough with filling, fold over and seal on the edges. Scoop the cooled down meat onto the dough, fold over, trim and flute the edges.
Place in a 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and brown.
Deneysville Croc and Lion Ranch
Tel: 016 371 1207
Cell: 082 801 7070