Bringing the Braai to Britain
Growing up, a BBQ was a rare summer evening activity, keeping fingers crossed for sunny weather, and usually involving a disposable foil contraption and some combination of plain sausages and burgers. Living in South Africa however outdoor cooking on a fire was a totally different experience. There’s no escaping “braai” culture in SA. Coming from the Afrikaans word “braaivleis” for grilled meat, the term braai is now used across cultures in SA and has become a firm part of my vocabulary. And this is not just because of the many fond memories I have braai-ing in SA. To call a braai a BBQ has been (to me) to equate the skill of cooking and diversity of food I’ve seen created in SA, with those overcooked sausages of my childhood. Thankfully, the UK has apparently gone mad for the BBQ in recent times – evidenced by National BBQ week and an array of facebook groups and twitter accounts of BBQ enthusiasts.
We loved braai-ing in SA so much that our weber, grids, jaffle irons, potjie pot and favourite spatula took pride of place amongst the small shipment of belongings we brought back to the UK with us. Once the shipment arrived we were itching to get cooking again and the recent run of good weather, and National BBQ week were all the reasons we needed.
Our last few braais have been a great chance to mix the best of local food from the UK with some of the things we learnt from the braaimasters of SA. I’ve also been very pleased to find so many of my favourite SA braai foods available here. From the Good Food market, held every first sunday of the month at the Royal William Yard, I managed to buy boerewors (a delicious type of sausage common at SA braais), and chakalaka – a vegetable relish. From our local Tesco, I also bought 3 types of Mrs Balls chutney (original, peach and hot) and Karoo ostrich fillets. In terms of local meat, British beef has been fantastic – with rib eye proving a particular favourite. There’s also lots of high quality pork sausages here (we love the free-range Gloucester old spot sausages from M&S), and a great selection of venison available at both markets and many supermarkets. Fish wise – we’ve been experimenting with mackerel and seabream – see a followup #sea2shop2supper post on these. Not forgetting the sides, there’s also great seasonal vegetables in the UK – jersey royal potatoes and asparagus make for some delicious salads. Drinkswise – we’re absolutely spoiled here for great beers and ciders – Dartmoor Brewery’s Jail Ale, St Austell’s Tribute and Korev lager, Brewdogs IPA’s and Healey’s Rattler cider are just a few favourites. We’ve also been able to source a surprising amount of South African wine, including Villiera MCC from M&S, Springfield’s Chardonnay from Le Vignoble, Rustenberg’s Rousanne from Majestic and the Klein Zalze chenin and red blends from Waitrose.
For me, braai-ing in SA was always about long afternoons spent with lots of friends. Since moving back to the UK, it’s been great to share these experiences with our families.
Family and friends have been really excited to try some of the braai recipes we brought home with us, so here’s a few of those and some other things we’ve been grilling up lately.
Fig and blue cheese burgers
Makes 4 big burgers, or 6 smaller ones
500g beef mince – I use the highest fat, roughly ground mince I can find.
1 red onion, chopped finely
150g blue cheese
Fig jam or chutney – I use the one from Ticklemore, available in Waitrose.
Some nice crunchy bread rolls – I bought cheddar and smoked paprika buns from M&S.
Caramelise the onions in lots of butter until really soft and delicious.
Mix these onions with the mince and loosely form in to patties.
Grill on the braai as you like – we like slightly rare.
Place in buns and top with a big spoonful of the fig chutney and lots of crumbled blue cheese.
Cheddar and pepperdew braaibroodjies
These are a type of toasted cheese sandwich made on the braai. As with toasted cheese sandwiches, you can fill these with almost any combination of fillings. I often use cheddar cheese (the UK has so many good options for this, Cornish Tickler is one of my favourites) and pepperdews. These are easiest done with a grid so they can all be flipped together.
Thick white bread, sliced.
Butter, softened so it’s easily spreadable.
Cheddar cheese, grated.
Pepperdews, sliced finely.
Butter the slices of bread on one side – this will be the outer side.
Fill sandwiches with grated cheese and pepperdew.
Place in grill and cook over cool fire.
Bobotie is one of my favourite South African dishes. Sweet curry spiced mince with baked egg custard and chutney sounds pretty odd, but South Africa’s national dish really is wonderful. I’ve made it so many times, I don’t even have a particular recipe, I tend to spice up the mince and taste it and add more spice and chutney until it tastes how I like it. Jaffles, are also a bit like toasted sandwiches, but thanks to the jaffle iron, can be filled much more than braai broodjies. For this recipe, I make a spiced mince based on the bobotie recipe, and replace the egg custard with an egg, cracked in the middle.
This recipe makes 6 or so and you will need a jaffle iron.
White bread, sliced.
1 onion, finely chopped.
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped.
2 tablespoons of curry powder.
2 teaspoons of turmeric powder.
3 allspice berries and two cloves – crushed in a pestle and mortar.
3 tablespoons of spiced fruit chutney – I often use the peach or hot Mrs Balls chutney.
6 eggs (1 per jaffle)
Soften the onions and garlic in a little butter.
Brown the mince, add the spices and cook until soft.
Finally stir the chutney through.
Butter the bread, again, the buttered side will be the outside. Place one slice, butter side down, in to the jaffle iron. Make a little nest of the spiced mince on the bread, and crack an egg in to the centre. Top with another piece of bread, again with the butter side outward and close the jaffle iron.
Cook in relatively cool coals, checking regularly to make sure they don’t burn, you want them to just be crisp, so the egg is still slightly runny.
Serve with chutney.
More braai recipes to come through the summer!