Image Details: ‘Braai’ by hyper7pro, via Flickr
So after a couple of months of training in this central part of South African social culture, it was time for the Brits to have a bash at braaing. Braai is the Afrikaans word for ‘barbecue’ or ‘grill’ and, unlike the amateurish attempts made the minute there is even a hint of sunshine in the UK, there is not a cheap, frozen, frisbee burger in sight. A braai differs from a barbecue in that wood is the traditional fuel used to cook on, although there has been a rise in the popularity of charcoal in recent years, chiefly due to the amount of time it takes for the wood to get to the right temperature, which is a good few hours.
Usually a braai involves all the attendees bringing a liberal amount of meat, often rump steak and boerewors, although lamb chops and ribs are also frequently seen, as well as a side dish of some sort. Braaing the meat is usually a male affair, with one chap in charge of the actual braai, whilst the others hang around the fire and talk about blokey stuff with a beer in hand. Like a Yorkie bar, it’s not for girls. Nope, the girls take care of all ancillary kitchen stuff, including making salad, pap – a kind of maize meal porridge which has a consistency like mashed potato – and braai relish. All the dull, non-fire related stuff, basically.
I should by now know that my dear husband is a nightmare when it comes to doing pretty much anything. For an intelligent person, he does somewhat lack common sense at times, so leaving him to start the fire himself should not have been on my list of things to do today. After about half an hour, he came back into the house and announced ‘well, gin isn’t as flammable as I thought’. Sorry? Rewind that one. GIN?! You tried to use my gin to light the braai?! This isn’t the Wild West! He then went on to detail how, after dousing any hopes of starting the fire with a liberal sprinkling of gin (good job it wasn’t the Bombay!) he had also tried to light it with citronella oil. I kid you not. Now this would have been mildly funny, had there not been, about a foot away from the citronella oil in the cupboard, a box of firelighters, which I calmly (clearly still reeling from the gin revelation) suggested he might want to use. As you can see in the picture below, this technique was altogether more successful – funny old thing – and he then merrily went round the garden snapping twigs off the massive thorn tree, scratching his hands to smithereens all the while, until I pointed out the large pile of already removed twigs at the end of the garden. Dearie me. Now where is that surgical spirit?
After this amusing little sketch, I minced off to the kitchen to do the girly bit. I have been told that pap can be quite easy to get wrong, so I opted for ‘braai broodjies’ which is basically a cheese toastie, but done on the braai, which does improve the taste and texture markedly! I also did it the traditional way, by tying some string around it to keep the package together. I didn’t have a recipe to hand, so I guessed on the contents based on what seemed to be in the last one I had. I was far too excited about the string tied around it to pay much attention other than to note it was pretty tasty! Braai broodjies would be easy to do on a barbie in the UK, so I think the idea should be exported. To make these I think you need:
Butter bread and spread with mayonnaise. Slice cheese, tomato and onion and arrange on bread. Tie together with a bit of cotton and whack on the braai until toasted. Nom.
And not forgetting Mrs Balls’ chutney, an essential accompaniment to a bit of steak. It is a bit like mango chutney, but with apricots in it too and more vinegary in taste than sweet. It’s really rather good. It also works with bacon butties, as I found out after Mr Shiny used it in place of Daddies brown sauce, of which we have none.
So there you have it, our first attempt at braaing, and totally unsupervised by our antipodean friends! I think I can feel a Christmas braai coming on in the UK…