Enterprising Ballyclare-based couple Ilse and Alanagh van Standen dry-cure South Africa-style meat snacks which have just won Ke Nako, their small food business, recognition as the ‘King of Snacks’ in an influential UK competition.
The award-winning snacks from Ke Nako – Africaans for it is time – are three flavours of Biltong, cured and air dried beef strips, and Droewors, a coiled and spicy beef sausage.
The County Antrim company cleaned up in the Snacks category in the national competition for cured meats organised in conjunction with the influential UK Charcuterie Board.
The board, which is based in Exeter, promotes collaboration, networking, learning and marketing for the entire cured meat sector in the UK.
It is primarily producer led, but provides a unique forum for supply side businesses, food safety consultants, buyers, retailers, training schools, statutory bodies and consumers to all network, discuss, promote themselves and do business together in one place.
In addition to the top award in the competition for its classic biltong, the entrepreneurial 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 a unique biltong powder as well as other cured meats, including chorizo and salami.
Ilse and Alanagh cut, dry-cure and produce the tasty and spicy beef snacks, sausages and other cured meats on Ballylagan Organic Farm, near Ballyclare, using premium meat sourced from the farm and other local suppliers for customers here, in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
Ilse, a butcher and chef originally from in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities, says: “We were delighted to have received this important recognition for our biltong and other meats in a competition which could be very helpful as we seek to grow our business in Britain. It’s becoming a very important market for us.
“Profile and endorsements there are great because they increase awareness of our novel products among consumers.
“The latest awards follow other successes in Britain which include UK Great Taste Awards for the quality and outstanding flavours of air-dried meats and winning the Top of the Shop competition on BBC TV hosted by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge in 2018.
“This attracted a substantial audience and gave us a tremendous opportunity to introduce our products,” Ilse adds.
“We gained a lot of business contacts from the TV show.”
The biltong and droewors have all been developed by Ilse using family recipes from her homeland. She works as the farm’s butcher and is responsible for providing cuts for its popular farm shop.
Alanagh, an animal biology lecturer, also plays a key role in marketing the business and its portfolio of premium products.
The couple met during a women’s rugby tour of South Africa by Cooke Rugby Club in Belfast, Alanagh’s team, in 2011. Ilse subsequently joined her in Belfast and both went on to represent Ireland and Ulster as prop forwards.
They also decided to set up in business together and launched Ke Nako Biltong the following year and to introduce South African-styled beef products to consumers here initially by taking part in food and farmers’ markets.
Together they have created a unique biltong recipe using 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.
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.