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Registration date : 2007-06-27

PostSubject: CUISINE FOR CARNIVORES   Mon 17 Aug 2015, 10:56


The great Theodore Roosevelt wrote “I speak of Africa and golden joys”  For me, one of the main joys is the South African braai, the epitome of the meat-eaters experience.
With the first glimpses of spring appearing, my thoughts are turning to the first braai of the year, so it seems a good opportunity to share my thoughts about this truly magnificent meal.
Braaivleis is the Afrikaans word for “roasting meat”, and comes from the history of the Voortrekkers exploring the wilderness, shooting game, then roasting the meat over charcoal. Usually abbreviated to “braai” it is today a social event, inherent to South African culture. It is equivalent to the Australian and American barbecue.
I first experienced a braai in Cape Town in 1975, and as a confirmed carnivore I was hooked. Since then the braai has become my favourite way of eating meat.
In this article we will discuss the equipment, cooking method, recipes and customs surrounding the braai.

[Den at a braai in the Cape area, 1983]

Most South African homes have some sort of braai area, known as a braaistand. This can be a brick built structure, or a simple metal setup. One of my favourites was at the police unit at Chlookop, where the main body was chopped from the fuel drum from a helicopter, while the grill was taken from the anti-riot mesh from a Caspir armoured vehicle.
Many recreational areas, parks, lakes, marinas have braaistands for visitors use.
Over here, the barbecue sets offered in supermarkets and home supply centres will do the job well.

[My braai]

To handle the hot meat a pair of tongs is a must. Also, long forks can be handy too. A supply of plates to receive the cooked meat should be on hand.
We’ve had many a braai during our training courses, usually at the end of a firearms session on range. Often Leatherman tools are substituted for tongs, and cardboard targets are used as plates.
I prefer the traditional charcoal as fuel for the braai, although gas-fired braai can be very convenient. Our supermarkets offer various forms of charcoal during the summer. Recently I found that the type that comes in its own inflammable bag works very well.

The choice of meat is, obviously, the heart of the braii. Buy the best quality that you can afford, preferably from a decent butcher or market, rather than the supermarket. Here’s my thoughts on some choices.

BEEF: I find that Ribeye or T-Bone is superb to braai. The marbling of fat gives a stronger flavour to the meat.
CHICKEN: Drumsticks are great, but my personal preference is to remove the bones from thighs, flatten them, and cook on both sides. Really delicious.
LAMB: I really love lamb, and chops can be a terrific braai. However, the fat can drip onto the charcoal, causing flames to rear up singing the meat. A solution is to have a water spray and give a couple of squirts to douse any flames.
BACON: In my opinion the finest way of cooking bacon is the braai. The flavour really comes through. Cook a few extra rashers to have in a BLT the next day, and you’ll be in for a real treat. Once, at a braai on range, one of the lads brought what he called “Oopsies” which were strips of bacon, doused in sauce, wound around a skewer and left on the grill for a couple of minutes. These made a tasty starter while waiting for the main meat to cook.
BOERWORS: This is the traditional South African farmers sausage, and is far removed from the “emulsified fat offal tubes” sold generally in our shops here. It is one of my favourite dishes and I’m glad to say it is now available in the UK.

[The lads enjoying Boerworks at a braai at Clint’s place]

VENISON: Without doubt the finest meat to braai is venison, the flesh of the various antelopes native to southern Africa.

Den enjoying Nyala at Carnivores restaurant in Jo’burg]

Such meat as Eland, Kudu, and, Nyala are the very best courses to try.

OTHER FOODS: It is customary to have a variety of salads, made with freash veggies and fruits, as well as various types of rolls and breads. Beer is the traditional drink, but I enjoy the wonderful fresh fruit juices from the Cape, such as Hanepoort.

[This restaurant offered a good selection of exotics meats]

Many prefer to marinade the meats overnight in their own special mix of ingredients. I’ve found that a marinade of lemon juice, onion, Balsamic vinegar, Soy sauce, and wine works well. It can be very creative to experiment with your own recipes.
I score the surface of the meat, to give greater surface area for the marinade to reach, and, when cooking, for the salts and juices to form that essential roast “crust”

Whether or not you have marinaded the meat, you will want to season it before cooking. Firstly, meat should be taken from the fridge about six hours before cooking, to allow the flavour to express.[ Note this refers to the fridge, not the freezer. If using frozen meat it must be defrosted prior to marinade]
A great seasoning is Chakalaka  spice, available in RSA. However, UK stores have some seasonings which work well, such as “Season-all” or “Steak and Chop spice”
The best seasoning I have used is the basting sauce sold by the Butchers Shop, a restaurant and store in Sandton. I ate there on a protection job a few years ago, and it is an experience I’ll never forget. They have a branch airside at Jo’burg airport, where I always stock up on vacuum-packed steak, as well as basting sauce, when departing RSA.
Turn the meat frequently, and move it to a cooler part of the grill when it’s nearly done.

A braai is more than just a meal, it’s a whole social occasion. It’s about meeting people,  talking, sipping cold drinks on a hot day, while being tantalised by the smell of meat roasting on the grill. I can’t wait for my next one!

South African shop, where you can order Boerwors, marinades and spices here


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Dennis Martin
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