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The EXPEDITION Project

A Different Sunday

SOUTH AFRICA | Monday, 14 May 2012 | Views [261]

A different Sunday…

What comes to mind when you think of Sundays in London? Is it lazy mornings reading the paper and drinking coffee? Is it brunch and beer with friends in the pub? Maybe it’s a pyjama and movie day at home with family. In my opinion, quite frankly these all sound quite delicious.

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Ask a South African what constitutes a happy Sunday and I’m sure 90% will mention the word ‘braai’. For those that don’t know what a braai is, I will explain. A braai is an all-day social gathering involving family and friends, drinking and cooking food slowly on an open fire made from wood and coal. Some of you I bet will be thinking, ‘so it’s basically a BBQ’. Well my friends, I have to say I would pretty much agree with this statement. Tell a South African that a braai is the same as a BBQ however and you will get a death stare I can guarantee you.

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Having lived with a South African (male I may add) for the past 4 months, I have been introduced to and educated into the world of braai’ing. Every young guy knows how to perform this hereditary South African-ism and each is very proud of the fact they he can start his own fire. To be quite honest, get a bloke in front of any kind of fire, be it an open fire or a gas barbeque and they instantly feel a little bit more masculine.

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Any other day of the week, they won’t be caught dead in the kitchen but when it comes to this very significant occasion, it is quite strictly no women allowed. Actually, let me correct my ‘no women allowed’ statement. Of course we all know that during an English BBQ or SA braai, the women are designated as the salad makers (which by the way we ultimately rock).

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There is 2 ways you can make a braai. One is with wood and coal and the other is just with wood. If you are going to do the latter, your wood needs to be of good quality (this means a nice dry batch). Either way, the wood needs to turn to coal and/or the coals smouldering to a temperature where you can hold your hand over the heat for approximately 3 seconds before you are forced to remove it. At this time, you know it’s on. The meat can be added. In England, it’s quite simple –you turn the gas on and go grab a beer while it heats up. In the background, you will ultimately hear someone asking, ‘what time will the food be ready?’ This statement would not be received well at a South African braai, let me tell you. This is a whole day event people, we don’t have a time schedule - we simply enjoy the pleasure of our friends company while not worrying about intermittent rain ruining our lovely day.

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As the women look out of the kitchen and see that the coals look ready, they will be putting the potato bake in the oven assuming that the meat is just about to go on. But as they turn around again after closing the oven door, they notice that one of the men has added more wood to the fire god damn it.

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So what exactly does one ‘braai’? When a barbeque springs to mind, I’m sure most of you in the UK envisage burgers and sausages and if you’re lucky steak (not forgetting the delicious array of potato salad, couscous salad, greens and other beauty’s prepared by us girls). The South African equivalent is quite different. The meat may include lamb chops, pork chops, beef steaks, chicken spatchcock, chicken wings, boerewors (I’ll come to that another time). A more elaborate braai could even include various game such as kudu, springbok, gemsbok etc.

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So while these meats are being marinated, spiced or quite simply taken out of their packaging, the women are slaving away to make the delicious accompaniments. I have had the pleasure of trying the following, and believe me I’m sure there are many more:

-Butternut squash (just called butternut here, oh by the way South Africans LOVE to abbreviate words) halved down the middle stuffed with spinach and feta, or simply brown onion soup granules.

-Gem squash which is a more stringy vegetable that looks a bit like a small melon with a generous dollop of butter in the middle.

-They also love to peel whole onions, wrap them in foil and bung them on the coals.

These 3 examples may not seem too out of the ordinary to the average Brit, but let me tell you, when I found out that people even braai sandwiches, even I was taken aback (this coming from someone who has eaten scorpions in China). For the lazy braai-er, SA supermarkets stock ‘braai rolls’, a ready-made sandwich if you will that you quite simply chuck on with the rest of the food. I am going to give you a recipe for my slightly more pimped up version.

Maddy’s braai roasted sandwiches

You will need:

Bread (any you choose but ciabatta works well)

Butter

Cheese (any really but my favourite is goats cheese or brie)

Tomatoes

Onions

Some sort of delicious relish or chutney

 

Method:

1)Spread butter inside and out of the bread

2)Fill your sandwich with the cheese, tomatoes and onions, season with black pepper and flaked sea salt and top with a layer of the chutney or relish

3)Close tightly and ceremoniously march to the fire.

4)High above the coals, carefully braai until it looks bursting at the seams with deliciousness (be warned, these bad boys cook quickly)

You can basically fill it with anything you choose but ultimately what you will have is the best toasted sandwich you’ve ever tasted. Enjoy and let me know how yours goes. 

Tags: braais, food, south africa, south african

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