Category Archives: Food

The South African Braai (barbeque)

The South African braai can be loosely translated as a barbeque but it is much more than that.  A braai is a South African tradition and is always, a man’s domain.

Braais are not usually done on gas fires.  Wood fires are traditional because the start of the ritual lies in the building of a perfect fire.  No man tolerates another messing with his fire, adding to it or poking around in it.  They each have their own style of making a fire and believe their way is best.

While the Braai Master builds and tenderly cares for his flames, it is customary for him and his buddies to drink beer.  The women meanwhile busy themselves in the kitchen making salads and side dishes.  Usual accompaniments include rich tomato and onion gravy, potato salad, green salad, garlic bread, bread rolls and pap (similar to a polenta, made from corn).  The meat can include steak, lamb chops, chicken portions, ribs, pork rashers, kebabs  and boerewors (a South African specialty sausage for which all butchers have a secret recipe).  Meat preparation also differs from man-to-man.  An assortment of spices and marinades may be used.  Some men like thick steak-cuts and others prefer them thinner.

Snacks are essential and include potato crips, dips, peanuts and biltong (a salted, dried meat similar to jerky but much tastier).

If large quantities of beer are consumed, logs would be added to the fire indefinitely until the kitchen intervenes.

A visitor may ask the Braai Master if he needs help turning the meat but it is generally considered in bad taste.  Unless of course the Braai Master suddenly falls down dead.  Strict etiquette is followed around a braai and all South African men instinctively adhere to it.

Once the all the meat is cooked it is placed on the table with the side dishes and the feast commences.  Most of the time there is way too much and the left-over meats become creative others.  Such as my After-Braai, Stir-Fry.    I simply chop all the left-over meat into small little chunks, give it a quick swish in the pan over high heat with some cream and cayenne pepper and, voilà!  The smoky flavour of the different meats is simply yummy on fresh bread, potatoes, rice or couscous.

If you ever find yourself in South Africa, and you are invited to a braai, do yourself a favour and go.  It is as South African as our sunny skies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braai

Etymology

From braaivleis (“grilled meat”), from Afrikaans braai (“to grill”), from Dutch braden (“roast”).

Pronunciation

Noun

braai (plural braais)

  1. (South Africa) A barbecue, the Afrikaans word for grill.
  2. (South Africa) An open outdoor grill built specifically for the purpose of braaing.
  3. (South Africa) A social meeting, including the braaingof meat.
    Come over to our place for a braai.

Verb

braai (third-person singular simple present braais, present participle braaing or braaiing, simple past and past participle braaied)

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When does Mrs. Ramsay ever see Gordon?

I’ve just finished Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography Humble Pie and I like him even more than before.  What stands out is his work ethic, he goes at it hard and never suffers laziness.

Gordon is a busy guy.  Besides for writing, consulting and managing his restaurant empire in various countries, he also has I don’t know how many TV shows such as Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word.  Before reading the book I wondered where he found the time to chill but now I understand that for Gordon, to work is to live.

I love Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  His no-nonsense approach, common sense, readiness to enter into confrontation, lack of fear and his understanding of what makes a restaurant exceptional creates a riveting show.  Gordon is not scared to say it like it is, nor does he give a fig about his enemies.

In ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’, restaurants in trouble get help from Gordon.  This usually involves fighting with owners, managers and chefs as well as restaurant make-overs, new menus and thorough health inspections.

In most of the shows the owners are opposed to these changes even though their businesses are failing.  I cannot understand why they ask for his help in the first place if they are not prepared to play ball.  Surely they know what the man is like before they ask for his assistance.  And surely that is why they ask in the first place.  Why then get bent out of shape?

Gordon comes from a poor background because of an abusive father who hardly worked and moved his family from town to town.  That became the driving force for Gordon, never to be like his dad, to succeed in life and to provide for his family.  I don’t think anybody can argue that he has done a bloody good job of it all.

Gordon thrives on adversity.  During his training years he learnt to work harder when pushed.  The more severe the opposition, the tougher he became.

Here is another example of someone who climbed to the top without much help, managed in spite of the utmost adversity and whose suffering was the cause of his victory.

Cheers Gordon, may you forevermore increase.


A quiet, hot Christmas day

We are in Scottburgh, on the South Coast of South Africa.  It has been hot and humid, and yesterday was no different.

My eldest is spending his Christmas holidays in Kunjata Bay, Mozambique with his buddy Donut.  A whole group of friends went down and it sounds like they are having a ball.  He tells me that the little kids faces are starting to scar from the sun.

My husband and I, and Kyle and his buddy James, spent Christmas day by ourselves.  There were only about 9 gifts under the tree and opening them was quick.  I made bacon and eggs for brunch and in the evening we had a braai (barbecue).  It was tranquil and nice.  No tables laden with food, overeating and long naps to sleep it off.  Last night we took Cinnamon for a stroll on the beach.

Twice we tried having Christmas lunch at a restaurant and it was disastrous.  The service was bad, food took long and it just seemed gloomy, spending Christmas with strangers in a strange place.  I won’t do that soon again.  Just us, at home, is good.

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is different from the North.  A white Christmas is an experience.  It looks, tastes and smells different.  I love the way people Christmafy their houses.  Lights and nativity scenes on a wintry, snowy landscape at night is something to behold.  And unlike the North, our December holiday is long with schools closing for about six weeks and most adults taking their annual leave to stream down to the coastal towns of SA.  Generally, decorations are kept down to a Christmas tree and some tinsel around the house.  Nothing fancy.

Turkey is not big here.  Christmas lunches would include gammon, chicken, pork and lamb roasts with potato and other salads.  And brandy pudding, Christmas cake and trifle.  If it is really hot, the meats will be served cold.

Today, the 26th of December, is as yesterday.  Hot.  Later we will make our way down to a beach, hoping that some of the crowds have gone home.

Long, lazy summer days are the hallmark of South African Christmas holidays.


On Food

I like food but not cooking.  I am good at it and can conjure up something with whatever is around, but it has never grown on me.

Once or twice a year I bake.  For the whole day.  Shortbread, chocolate-chip cookies, other random  biscuits, pies, baklava.  My speciality is a baked chocolate cheese cake.  But once it’s over, it’s over for a while.

Had I lived on my own, I don’t think I would have cooked.  Just snacked.  Or made toast, or mixed tuna and mayo or tinned oysters with biscuit thingy’s.  Even better, I would have just taken supplements.

I usually only have supper, while standing, and quickly.  I don’t sit down to eat unless it is called for.  I’ve never been one for breakfast (unless it is already made), I don’t care for lunch so that leaves dinner.  Everybody says it is bad for you but I don’t know about that.  I think your body just gets on with it.

I have never really had weight issues.  Only when I was on antidepressants.  When I first sought professional help to quit drinking, the doctor put me on a cocktail of antidepressants, sleeping tablets and tranquilizers and by the way, you do not give tranquilizers to an addict LOOOOL!  I remember collecting a script from my pharmacist one day and he exclaimed:  “Mrs. P, what is going on with you?”  Well, I was embarrassed and not about to explain so I mumbled that since our armed robbery I was taking strain.  Whatever.

When I went into rehab the psychiatrist put me on antidepressants, a non-habit forming sleeping tablet and Valium, for withdrawal.  Within 3 days he canned the Valium and in another 2 the sleeping tablets.  I have a letter that my Gran wrote to my Mom when I was about 6, complaining that I never slept.  And I didn’t, until my first night in rehab.  I don’t struggle with insomnia anymore.

Anyway.  I picked up weight.  That horrid feeling when you lie in bed at night and you feel that you have to turn your tummy over separately when you turn over.  Manually.

I also wished I could take my arms and legs off before I went to sleep.  Until someone asked me how I would put them back on in the morning.

By then I had been on the pills for about a year.  I asked the psychiatrist if we could stop.  My depression was a result of my drinking anyway, not the other way around.  I lost most of the weight but was left with a remnant.

And the worst is that you always have those well-meaning souls that have to point out to you that you have picked up weight.  “But not to worry, it really suits you.  You needed a bit of meat on your bones.”  Liars.

Then I remembered that some years ago I lost weight when I upped my intake of water.  But aaarrrggggg!  Water does not appeal to me.  Coffee and whiskey do.  I started drinking warm water (easier) with a little lemon juice (easier still).  I don’t know how long it took, perhaps four or six weeks but eventually I felt like my old self, not conscious of my stomach all the time.  I drink a lot of water, I have a 500ml glass and refill it every time I need to wee.

When I first met my gynaecologist she asked me about my eating habits and said that if my body is used to one meal a day, and always had been, then that is fine for me.  She does however nag about my smoking.  That doesn’t bug me either.  It is as it is and when the time is right, it will sort itself out, like everything else has.

You do have to feel sorry for my boys though.  I pack good lunch boxes with fruit, health bars, rice cakes, fruit sticks, biltong and a roll with cold meats and salads.  And I make supper.  But when they come home in the afternoon and on weekends they have to fend for themselves.  They both cook which is a good thing because most of the girlfriends can’t.

I lay out their plates, knives, forks, butter, toasters, pans and all the paraphernalia the night before so that they can make breakfast in the morning.  I put little notes of redemption with it, or in their lunch boxes, telling them that I love them and that they must have a nice day.

But boys are always hungry!  And according to them there is NEVER any food in this house.  I hope that when they move out one day, it will become clear that there was a lot of food in this house, their mother just didn’t cook it.  And I pray that the lack of cooking in my mothering skills is made up for by something else.

I do like food, I just can’t be bothered.


Don’t taste the Ingredients, wait for the Cake!

I don’t know who wrote this but hats off!  A buddy sent it to me this morning.

Sometimes we wonder:  “What did I do to deserve this or why did God have to let this happen to me?”

Here is a wonderful explanation.

A daughter is telling her mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing her grades, her boyfriend broke up with her , her best friend is moving away and life was just knocking her down.

Her mother was busy baking a cake and asked the daughter if she would like a piece.

“Absolutely Mom,” the daughter says, “I love your cake”.

“Here, have some cooking oil”, the mother offers.

“Yuck”, says the daughter.

“How about a couple of raw eggs?”

“Gross Mom!”

“Would you like some flour then?  Or maybe some baking soda?”

“Mom, all of those are really yucky!”

“Yes, all those things taste bad by themselves but when put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully, delicious cake.  God works in the same way.  Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times.  But God knows that when He puts these things together in the right order, they always work for good.  We just have to trust Him to make something wonderful.”

God is crazy about you!  He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.  Whenever you want to talk, He will listen.  He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chose your heart.

Life may not be the easy ride we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well make the best of what we have, knowing that we can trust Him for the end result.