Braai, Beer, and Bush

History of braai can be traced back to the time when the early humans walked on the earth. Maybe the early man found a dead animal who couldn’t escape the forest fire and he tasted its meat with smoked flavor…He realized that the cooked piece of meat was comparatively much softer and tastier than the uncooked meat…Maybe then he preferred to cook the meat always thereafter…Or maybe he invented fire creating using two-stone method and tried cooking the meat…Whatever the reason, the taste and flavor of the grilled meat spoilt taste buds of the early humans. That must be the very first step of a human being towards braaing and in turn cooking.

The word Braai is a short form of Braaivleis, which is an Afrikaans word for local variation of barbecued or grilled meat. The word Braai is a noun that depicts the cooking equipment as well as a verb that depicts the way meat is cooked.

Braai involves outdoor cooking of meat and dining. Family or friends gather together in a casual environment for Braai lunch or dinner. Braai is an important part of food culture of Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. A large number of houses in these African countries have Braai arrangements in their gardens. They are called permanent Braai stands and are generally located near swimming pools. Most of the resorts, hostels, and hotels also provide permanent Braai stands.

half-drum-braai

Braai Party is a great social gathering in a friendly and casual manner where you don’t need to worry about following any stern party manners hence the host can also become a part of the event casually. Less preparation is required for the Braai as far as the food part is concerned. The other interesting thing is, the men folk plays a leading role in braaiing as it needs to handle heavy or large-sized equipment near fire. Believe it or not, this definitely lessens the cooking load on women folk. Women mostly contribute in marination, preparing salads or dips, and cutting lemon wedges.

Which basic equipment do I need for braai?

round-braaiBraai is a tray of some substantial height, which is entirely covered with grid. You can keep burning firewood or hot embers in the tray and cover it with the metal grid on which you can keep pieces of meat directly for grilling. The metal grid is made of iron, cast iron, or steel. There are various shapes of Braai stands such as Half-oil drum (which is the largest in size), Dome-shaped, and Box-shaped.

Apart from the Braai stand, paraffin or kerosene is required for persistent fire that goes on even during winds in the open areas. The tongs are required to pick up or turn the pieces of meat on hot grid. The longer the tongs, the safer they are. In addition, it is better to use paper plates than the glass or ceramic ones, as they are convenient during outdoor eating.

Braai Fuel

Various types of seasoned wood or charcoal are primarily used as Braai fuel. These days, brackets made from fine wooden chips are being preferred. The type of wood plays an instrumental role in the smoke it produces and in turn in flavor of the meat. Though most of the times wood is used conventionally, brackets and charcoal provide convenient handling.

Which meat or vegetables can I braai?

The sleeker the meat, more tenderly and completely it gets cooked. Meat is marinated in spices for hours before the actual cooking starts. Fillets or cubes of chicken, pork, and lamb or mutton, other red meat, game meat, tiger prawns or fish, boerewors, sausages, frankfurters, steaks, and ribs are excellent options for Braai. Though few people prefer meat with bones, the tender cuts such as shoulder, breast, and thigh are perfect for braaing as they contain less or almost no bones.

Braai doesn’t let anyone go hungry. A vegetarian guest can always braai marinated cottage cheese cubes, tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicums, brinjal slices, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Which side dish and drink goes well with braai?

Braaied food can be paired with a large range of salads, sauces, dips, and breads to enhance the taste. The side dishes give a fantastic color combination and complement the main braai dish. Potato salad, Green salad, Greek salad, Carrot-orange salad, are great options for side dish.

Since it’s a casual dining practice, braaied meats can be served with chilled drought beer, lager, or ale. White or red wine with dry taste can match with braaied seafood. The teetotalers can rely on any cold drinks. Braai is a wild thing that can be better handled with chilled alcoholic drinks.

Braai Recipes

Here are few Braai recipes:

Braaied Chicken Breasts 

This is an Indo-African version of braai recipe sufficient for 3 to 4 people. Flavorful and tastey, for those who wish to try something with Indian spices in African wilderness. 🙂

Ingredients

Boneless Chicken – 4 large pieces of 125-150gm each, cut into long slices.

Marination

  1. Thick unsweetened curds – 1 cup
  2. Fresh Ginger Paste – 1 tbsp
  3. Fresh Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
  4. Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp
  5. White Pepper Powder – ½ tbsp
  6. Cinnamon or Nutmeg Powder – ½ tbsp
  7. Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 1 tbsp
  8. Lemon juice – 5 tbsp
  9. Salt – to taste

Method

  1. Clean the pieces of chicken.
  2. Slit the pieces by running a sharp knife on it 3 to 5mm deep at 1cm distance. Do not let them break apart.
  3. Flip the piece and repeat the process on the other side.
  4. Mix all the Marination ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Apply this mixture to the chicken pieces all over to coat them evenly.
  6. Keep the chicken breasts covered for a couple of hours in the refrigerator for marination.
  7. Roast the chicken breasts on the braai grid till they are done completely.

Carrot-Black Currant-Orange Salad

This salad is tasty enough to make you close your eyes while feeling its juicy taste. It will make you forget that some time back you couldn’t take off your eyes from its bright orange and black colors. 🙂

Ingredients

  1. Fresh bright carrots – 6 to 8 large
  2. Orange juice – 1 ½ cup
  3. Black Currants – 3 tbsp

Method

  1. Peel the carrots.
  2. Shred them into fine stripes.
  3. Transfer the shredded carrot into a large bowl.
  4. Add orange juice into it.
  5. Add black currants.
  6. Mix well.
  7. Keep the bowl covered with cling foil in the refrigerator.
  8. Serve chilled.

Mustard Sauce

This little hot and sweet tangy sauce brings an extra punch to the braaied meat or vegetables.

Ingredients

  1. Evaporated Milk – ¾ cups
  2. Split and husked mustard – 4 tbsp
  3. Sugar – 1 tbsp
  4. Salt – ¼ tbsp

Method

  1. Soak the mustard in milk for ½ hour.
  2. Add Sugar.
  3. Blend well in a blender to fine paste.
  4. Add salt.
  5. Serve at room temperature.

So next time when you are in fix for a casual party theme, why not try the African Braai with beer in a bush? 🙂