South Africans love cooking outdoors and our perfect weather warrants it. However, we always seem to turn towards the trusted braai method of hot coals, grids, meat and sausage, but what happes when you think beyond the braai?
Bigger is Better
If you’re expecting a lot of guests this festive season, then a spit braai is the ideal method to utilise. Traditionally, a spit is a whole animal that has been attached to a pole, rotated over hot coals, cooked and basted for several hours.
The result? Soft and tender meat, enough to feed an army.
Alternatively, you can also buy an electric spit braai which look like a trailer. Instead of fire, there is a hot panel inside which heats the meat as it automatically rotates. If you are into doing-it-yourself, then see our Chef Patron Justin Bonello’s homemade spit braai here.
Sides: Stuffed stick bread with homemade basil pesto (recipe here) and fresh green salad.
One Pot Goodness
Potjiekos is a stew, cooked over flames or hot coals in a three-legged cast iron pot and is considered one of South Africa’s traditional foods. The best thing about this method is that it’s so versatile and all you really need is the pot and fire. The secret is to cook it slowly.
A good potjie should be stacked in layers. This means, your ingredients that take the longest to cook go at the bottom (meat), medium (potatoes or other starch) in the middle and fast cooking additions (vegetables) are added at the end.
Sides: Rice / samp or freshly-baked pot bread.
Used by ancient civilisations, pit cooking requires a bit of extra effort, but is definitely a fun activity with a group of friends. This method is ideal if you’re looking to bake whole fish or thicker cuts of meat in its own juices over a long period of time. Best of all, the steps are quite simple:
- Dig a square hole big enough to fit your food.
- Line the sides and bottom of the pit with stones to retain the heat.
- Build a fire in the hole and let it burn, regularly stoking it for two hours to heat the stones.
- Season and wrap your protein and harder vegetables in tin foil.
- Once the coals and stones are hot, place your ingredient/s on top.
- Cover it with the loose soil and pat it down to seal it.
The size of your ingredient/s determines how long you should leave it to cook for. Remember, when you dig it out, be careful not to pierce your food.
Sides: Spiced butternut rounds or sweet potato wedges.
Use smoking chips in your braai to impart a smoky flavourAlong with that, you simply need a fire or coal-cooking surface that’s equipped with a lid and some robust herbs, like bay leaves or rosemary.
The idea behind this method is that the food cooks at a low heat, slowly absorbing the hot, smoky flavours. You can also employ a wet smoking technique, which requires a pan of hot water kept under the lid with the food to maintain the moisture and temperature.
Sides: Baby potato salad with a tangy vinaigrette.
We encourage all chefs to use their imagination with food and cooking techniques by trying out and perfecting new methods.
Get excited. Get creative. Get cooking.