Heritage Day, Braai Day or even Shaka Day. Depending on who you ask, 24 September means something different to South Africans. The one thing we all have in common, however, is braai culture – and if you remembered to put in a day’s leave for today, chances are you’ll be braaiing both today and tomorrow on the public holiday.
We take our braais pretty seriously. If you’ve always wanted to step up your braai game, here are the ultimate braai commandments according to two local foodies, Unaty Daniel and Justin Bonello.
Daniel, a qualified chef, owns a patisserie and bakery called Fablous Foods. She took quite a few detours in her career – from engineering and waitressing to eventually ending up in the kitchen – to find her true passion. The rest is history, although the 37-year-old admits “cooking is not something I thought I would take as a career, even though I come from a family that cooks a lot”.
Unlike many of us who would simply just defrost meat before throwing it on the braai, Daniel usually marinades her chicken on the night before she’s going to braai. “When I’m braaiing the chicken, I first grill the skin for a few minutes and then cover it in foil so that it gets cooked on the inside.”
It’s a different story with red meat though. “I do not marinade my red meat before the braai, as I want all that (the meat’s) natural juices to stay in. When I do marinade before the time, my meat becomes dry quickly.”
For her there are a couple of big no-no’s when it comes to braaiing, including “using dirty grills because people can get sick of this” and “don’t braai on high flames as this will result in your meat being burnt on the outside and raw on the inside”.
Bonello earned the title as Mzansi’s braai guru after creating and hosting The Ultimate Braai Master. The proudly South African television show is now entering its sixth season.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t we create South African content that stars South Africans, taps into the South African psyche and celebrates the rainbow nation?’”
His braai rules? One, remember that “there are no bad cooks, just friends who aren’t hungry enough.” This is followed by the second rule: “If it’s great and tastes delicious, I cooked it. If it tastes terrible, it’s always someone else’s fault, and refer to rule one.”
The rest of Bonello’s rules command that you only braai with wood or charcoal, always have an extra kuier fire going (a fire next to the fire being used for the braai), and make sure you give credit to all the braai heroes who’ve done the preparations. Oh, and anyone who rocks up at the gathering with frozen chicken deserve to sit in the corner with a dunce hat on.
Both Daniel and Bonello are ready to try out their favourite recipes this Heritage Day. Daniel says, “My favourite braai recipe currently is rosemary and barbeque lamb chops stuffed with mozzarella cheese.”
For Bonello it’s important to use produce that are locally available. “If I’m up the West Coast, it has to be mussel pots. In the Tankwa Karoo I prefer klip rib and at home it’s atchar-smoked, deboned shoulder of lamb.”
Remember to keep things simple though. After all, Bonello says cooking on a fire is more about the social event than what’s being prepared. He loves to pair his braai with the good company of friends and family and Dragon Brewing Co’s Ginger Beer. (Relax, it’s a craft beer and not actually a ginger beer, although home-made ginger beer is equally magical.)
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s try out Daniel’s rosemary and barbeque lamb chops stuffed with mozzarella cheese and Bonello’s classic mussel pot. Both are delicious. We can vouch for that.