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Comprehensive step by step instruction and recipe on how to braai perfect steak – by Jan Braai.
What is Chisa Nyama? What is Chesa Nyama? What is Shisa Nyama?
The braaibroodjie (braaied toasted sandwich) is the highlight of many a braai. Those not yet emancipated by the fact that you don’t need meat at every braai, frequently braai meat as a pretext when all they actually want is braaibroodjies. Top your work of art with a sunny side up egg or two for the ultimate in breakfast braai. This is the superior South African braai fire version of the classic French croque-madame.
WHAT YOU NEED (makes 9 braaibroodjies)
- 1 pre-sliced loaf white bread (usually contains at least 18 useable slices)
- 300 g cheddar cheese (sliced – grate if you want to, but it falls out easier)
- 1 large onion (sliced into rings)
- 4 tomatoes, sliced (you need 2 slices per braaibroodjie and there are on average 5 useable slices per tomato)
- salt and pepper
- one or two eggs per person
WHAT TO DO TO ASSEMBLE
- Butter all the slices of bread on one side. Slice the cheese, onion and tomatoes.
- Place half the bread slices butter side down, spread chutney on them and evenly distribute all the cheese, tomato and onion on top. Grind salt and pepper over that.
- Cover with the remaining bread slices, butter side facing up. Some people try and make an issue out of whether to butter the braaibroodjie on the outside or inside. There is no debate; you butter it on the outside. This makes a golden-brown finished product, and also keeps the braaibroodjie from sticking to the grid.
WHAT TO DO TO BRAAI
- Braaibroodjies are always braaied in a toeklaprooster (hinged grid). Using an open grid for this is silly to the point of stupid. You want very gentle heat and you need to turn them often. They are ready when the outsides are golden brown, the cheese has melted and all the other ingredients are properly heated all the way through. If the outsides are burnt before the cheese is melted you’ve failed.
- Many people braai the broodjies right at the end, after the meat. The advantage is that the coals are then quite gentle but the disadvantage is that your meat then rests until it is cold.
- An alternative trick is to have two identical braai grids. Braai your meat in the bottom one and your braaibroodjies in the other, resting right on top of the meat grid. When you want to turn the meat, first remove the top grid with the braaibroodjies in it. Turn both grids and then replace, meat grid below, bread grid on top. The heat will reach the bread and start to melt the cheese but the meat will protect the bread from the direct heat and getting burnt. Right at the end, when you remove the meat, give the bread solid direct heat for about a minute on each side to get some colour.
- Top each braaibroodjie with one or two baked sunny side up eggs.
This recipe is pretty self-explanatory and I trust that even the casual observer will clearly see how great it is by simply reading through it. You make a very high-quality relish in your potjie on the fire and then you bake or poach some eggs in hollows in the relish. Simple as that. The only ingredient that could be mildly challenging is cabanossi, which is similar to droëwors and can be found at butcheries throughout South Africa. Failing that, just use salami or chorizo.
WHAT YOU NEED (feeds 4–6)
- 2 tots olive oil
- 200 g cabanossi (or chorizo or salami, sliced into small pieces)
- 1 red onion (sliced)
- 1 red pepper (sliced)
- 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper (or chilli powder)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes (halved, 250 g)
- 1 tub feta cheese (200 g, Danish style works best for this one)
- 6 jumbo eggs (the biggest eggs you can find)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- a handful of basil leaves (chopped or torn into smaller pieces)
- slices of bread (toasted on the fire, to serve)
WHAT TO DO
- In your no. 10 flat-bottomed potjie, heat the oil and fry the cabanossi, onion and pepper for a few minutes. You want the cabanossi to sweat and release a good aroma, and the onion to soften.
- Add the garlic, cayenne pepper and paprika and fry for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes and mix it all together. Let it simmer covered with the lid, for about 10 minutes so that all the flavours can socialise and get to know each other.
- Crumble all of the feta evenly into the potjie on top of the tomato mixture.
- Now use your wooden spoon and make six dents or hollows in the relish, big enough for an egg. Break an egg into each hole, taking care not to break the egg yolks.
- Season with salt and pepper and close the lid. Leave to cook for about 6 minutes on flames or coals. The relish needs to bubble as that will cook the eggs. The meal is ready when the egg whites are mostly cooked and the yellow still mostly soft.
- There is no harm in lifting the lid and peeking inside the potjie to see when this is done.
- Sprinkle with the basil leaves and serve immediately; this is not a meal that needs to rest before serving.
This layered chicken and rice dish originated in North India but is such a firm favourite locally that we can view it as an adopted child of South African cuisine.
WHAT YOU NEED (serves 6)
- 2 cups basmati rice (uncooked)
- 2 tots butter
- 2 onions (finely chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tot ground turmeric
- 3 tots curry powder
- 1 tot ginger (crushed)
- 12 – 18 pieces of chicken
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tots fresh coriander (finely chopped)
- almonds (flaked and toasted – optional for serving; not only tastes great but looks and sounds cool as well)
WHAT TO DO
- Cook 2 cups of basmati rice in 12 cups of water and then drain.
- Put your potjie on the fire. Apart from the initial frying part, this dish is made with medium-low heat all the way through, so make sure your fire is not too hot. Rather keep adding coals if the heat is not enough. Add the butter, onions, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Fry for about 5–10 minutes until the onions are soft and shiny but not brown.
- Add the turmeric, curry powder and crushed ginger. Stir all of this around for another minute.
- Now it’s time for the chicken, salt and pepper to go in. Fry for a few minutes just to give it some colour. Pour in the chicken stock, then stir and cover with a lid. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring half-way through.
- Remove the lid, and top with the cooked rice, spreading it out to the edges and flattening the top. Cover with the lid, then cook for another 10 minutes over very low heat.
- Take the potjie off the fire and leave to stand for 10 minutes before opening the lid.
- Serve with chopped coriander and some toasted flaked almonds.
Chicken biryani can be slightly dry, which is just one of those things. You counteract this problem, and add to the taste, by serving it with a raita sauce, which is similar to a Greek tzatziki and is very easy to make.
Make the raita:
- 2 cups plain yoghurt (I prefer Greek to Bulgarian)
- 1/2 cucumber (seeds removed and coarsely grated)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tot coriander leaves (finely chopped)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Just mix the ingredients together.
Depending on whether you prefer speaking Greek, Turkish or Arabic around the braai fire you might also like to call this meal a gyro, döner or shawarma, it’s really up to you. Whatever language you speak, the important thing is to gather around a fire. Everyone loves this meal and as a bonus it looks great in photos. There is no need for a dancing pole with a few revolving tonnes of meat to make a great lamb pita. This is the South African version so we simply braai some chops.
WHAT YOU NEED (feeds 6)
- 6 lamb leg chops (those big roundish ones)
- 6 pita breads
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
- 1 lemon (juice)
- 1 tot olive oil
FOR THE SAUCE
- 1 cup Greek yoghurt (or full-cream yoghurt)
- ½ cucumber (chopped)
- 1 tot olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- salt and pepper
- lemon juice
FOR THE SALAD
- 2 big tomatoes (or 12 cherry tomatoes, chopped)
- ½ cucumber (the other half)
- 1 smallish red onion (or half a big one, finely chopped)
- 1 tot fresh mint
- 1 tot fresh parsley
- 1 tot fresh oregano
- 1 tot olive oil
WHAT TO DO
- Crush the coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle, and mix in the salt, pepper, garlic cloves, lemon juice and olive oil.
- Rub the chops with the mixture from step 1, cover and let them marinate in a fridge for about 2 hours.
- Make the sauce by combining the first four ingredients and then adding salt, pepper and a few squeezes of lemon juice to taste.
- Make the salad by chopping and combining the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, mint, parsley and oregano. Add a bit of olive oil to give it that nice shine.
- Braai the chops for about 10 to 12 minutes over hot coals until done.
- As you remove the chops from the grid, add the pita breads to the grid and toast them for a few minutes, turning a few times and taking extreme care not to let them burn.
- Use your sharp chef’s or carving knife to debone the chops and slice them in thin diagonal slivers.
- Open the toasted pita breads and evenly distribute the various ingredients into them.
I first learnt to make apple tart with my friend Louis Jonker, the renowned part-time chef from Stellenbosch (at home he and his wife Anita split the cooking half-and-half). Once, during a visit to Ceres in the Western Cape, I decided to try something I’d never seen before (but it has since grown to such fame that it’s now standard practice) – apple tart in a potjie! I adjusted the recipe slightly for cooking on a fire, and the end result was very successful. Try it and see for yourself!
What you need (serves 6 – 8)
For the filling:
- 8–10 Granny Smith apples (Louis and all the Ceres locals assured me that when baking apple tart, Granny Smith apples are the way to go)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tots brandy (or rum)
For the crumble:
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (caramel brown sugar, or ordinary light brown sugar)
- 125 g salted butter (a quarter of a 500 g block – soft)
- another 2 tots butter
- another dash of cinnamon
- vanilla ice-cream (or cream, to serve)
What do do:
- Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and throw them in a potjie. Add the water, raisins, cinnamon and brandy, and mix well.
- Put the potjie on the fire, with the lid on. Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes until the apples begin to soften. Remove from the fire once cooked.
- While the apples and their friends cook, add the flour, sugar and butter to a bowl and rub together with your clean fingertips until it forms a dry, crumbly mixture.
- Add half of the crumble mixture to the potjie and mix it into the cooked apples.
- Use the rest of the crumble mixture to cover the apples – make sure it spreads out evenly.
- Add a couple of knobs of butter on top of the crumble and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over the top to give the tart some colour. Put the lid on the potjie and go back to the fire.
- Put the potjie over gentle coals and also put coals on the lid. When and if the coals lose power, add extra coals to the bottom and top of the potjie. If the fire is big and one side of the potjie gets more heat than the other, rotate the potjie every now and again.
- Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until you see the apple sauce bubbling through the crust when you lift the lid.
- Enjoy with some vanilla ice-cream or cream.