Nothing screams South African like a good bunny chow. And although you never would have guessed that a master of meats would know his way around it, this spicy meat-free treat comes from none other than the famous Jan Braai.
“The bunny chow is arguably the biggest contribution that Durban has made to South African society,” writes Jan Braai in his latest cookbook, Jan Braai: The Vegetarian Option. Now he pays homage to the iconic dish by adding his own dash of fire and quirk.
Bunny chow, the Jan Braai way
2 tots olive oil
2 onions, sliced or chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
fresh ginger, equal in volume to the garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 tot masala curry powder, your choice of mild, medium or hot
1 tsp chilli powder, optional for the extra-hot bunny
2 tins baked beans
2 potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 carrots, cut into slices
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 loaf fresh white bread. You need stock-standard normal white bread, and you need it unsliced so that it can be cut to specification
1 punnet fresh coriander, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a potjie over a medium-hot fire and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until it becomes soft.
2. Add the garlic, ginger, masala and (optional) chilli powder, and fry for 1 minute until the pan becomes sticky. If at any stage during step 1 or 2 you have too much heat in the potjie and things start to burn (in a charred way, not a chilli way), add a very little bit of water as a counter-attack – but only do this if it’s really necessary. We need the flavour to develop by means of getting a bit sticky at the bottom of the potjie.
3. Throw in the baked beans, potatoes, carrots, water, salt and pepper, then stir, scraping the bottom of the potjie with your spoon to loosen any and all sticky bits.
4. Cover with a lid and simmer over medium-low coals for about 30 minutes, stirring now and again so that the bottom of the potjie doesn’t burn. If no amount of stirring is going to stop the dish from burning, it means your potjie is too dry. Add a bit of water to rectify this but go easy. You’re making curry, not soup.
5. Continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft. Check whether they’re cooked through by sticking a fork or knife into them. As soon as the potatoes are soft, the meal is essentially ready. Cook uncovered for a few minutes to allow the sauce to become a thick gravy and then the curry is done, so take the potjie off the fire. Taste and adjust with a bit of extra salt if it needs it.
6. Cut the loaf of bread into quarters and then scoop or cut out the centres of each quarter loaf, essentially creating a ‘bowl’ of bread for the curry. You’re basically creating four bowls made of bread. Fill the hole of each quarter loaf with the curry and sauce. Serve the scooped-out bread centre and fresh coriander leaves on the side.
A final note: The stock-standard, non-sliced white bread is increasingly becoming somewhat of an endangered species in upmarket supermarkets. If you’re from the side of town that only sells sliced bread, I would skip that and rather serve each person their curry in whatever is the most substantial but basic white bread roll you can find.
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