Tag Archives: meat

Braai is the answer

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Summer is here and that means braai season is upon us. For anyone who’s never heard the word Braai before (pronouced brr-eye), it is what South Africans call a BBQ.  I think braai makes it sound deliciously more juicy and hedonistically  meaty,  and us South Africans really do enjoy our meat.

With the current World Cup party going down south of the Limpopo,  South Africa is in the spotlight and when not proudly practising our vuvuzela paaaarp, hopefully, we are introducing the world to out vast rainbow cuisine, but I digress slightly.

I was talking about that quintessential South African thing called The Braai. Despite all the gorgeous sunny days we have had so far I have yet to strike a match over a pile of charcoal and get those lamb chops on the fire. I have been thinking about the other kind of stuff we do with the braai back home that you don’t see much of here. Like wrapping potatoes and onions in tin foil and sticking it under the hot coals, toasting these special braai style mini garlic butter rolls over the grill, making the must-have potato salad with tangy mayonnaise, putting on the wors (uniquely South African sausage sold in a thick coil), grilling a whole leg of lamb that has been deboned and flattened out, or grilling whole spatch-cocked chicken, lobsters and large crayfish. Then there is the fish braai (probably more common along the garden route and in Cape Town than what I am familiar with on the Dolphin Coast) or cooking mussels that were freshly pried off the rocks that very morning…

A braai is an excuse to over-indulge, it is also an excuse to over cater and be eating the left overs for lunch and dinner the next day. There would be chicken and spicy sausages and lamb chops and cold potato salad and hot dog rolls that were probably left out in the open for a little too long. And there would be garlic sauce and chilli sauce and bloated tummies galore. Oh, and don’t forget the Castle Lager!

And you don’t have to have the latest or fanciest weber grill or shiny giant grill contraption with  a fold back lid. Braai stands can often be homemade, fashioned out of a large metal drum that has been sawn in half lengthways with metal legs and fittings welded to it.

A braai is also a social experience and something South Africans might take for granted. Living in the UK has really made me homesick for that laid back camaraderie, the smoky smell of fat being charred hanging in the late afternoon air, a generous serving spoon of my mom’s potato salad and chilli chicken sausage to make your eyes water.

My Year of Meat

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Peppered steaks awaiting the grillThe above is actually the title of a book I read a few years back (by Ruth L. Ozeki), and one I recently recommended to a work colleague for her book club. Every time I see large cuts of beef sprawled on neat trays in butchers’ windows, decorated with plastic lettuce-lookalike, the title of this book, masquerades before me like (sticking with the theme) a prize bullfighter and I am immediately reminded that beef does not spontaneously enter my recipe boudoir.

Rather, beef arrives in my shopping trolley with much contemplation, frowning and lip pursing, and me vainly wondering what could I do beyond perfectly grilled steaks (lines from my prized, square, Le Creuset griddle pan, artfully imprinted on the meaty palms – served with discs of peppery garlic butter), hearty gourmet burgers (spiced with no less that seven secret spices – served with fat handcut oven baked chips, skin-on) or feisty chilli – with aduki beans and fresh majoram.

Did the book put me off eating meat, my colleague asked. Not really, but it did prolongue my gravitation towards the species respectful Hindus did not slaughter and feast on.

If truth be told, I made my first roast beef dinner on the weekend from a topside of organic Argentinean rump (no pictures unfortunately, so eager was I to sample a slice of what also looked like silverside, and so smug that it was a success). But I digress.

My Year of Meat is a fabulous book that will definitely make you think a bit more about juicy – or charred, but once bloody morsels. Before landing on our plates, with or without a garlicky red wine gravy, our slices of prime rib roamed verdant pastures, and perhaps in many cases, if not bred by purists for organic principles, had vast chemicals – of synthetic hormone or antibiotic origin, keeping its body fluids company… But Ozeki’s offering is so much more than a treatise on food conspiracies, or modern farming methods accompanied by unusual recipes – it joins up feminism, food consumption, cross-cultural misunderstanding, and equally, the pursuit and dissemination of Western (read American) values, with lashings of humour. It’s a great read – no additional salt required.