South Africans have their own day to celebrate their heritage on September 24, colloquially adopted by some as National Braai Day. This public holiday was instituted soon after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.
The occasion also places the spotlight on the legacy of cookery – in South Africa and elsewhere – in many of the country's most popular restaurants.
Chef Michael Broughton @ Terroir, Stellenbosch.
Michael opened Terroir on De Zalze Estate, home of Kleine Zalze Wine in October 2004 and has 13 Eat Out Top Ten-awards under his belt: two from Broughton’s in Johannesburg and the rest from Terroir in Stellenbosch. In 2006 the venue was voted Best Restaurant and won the Service Excellence Award in the same year.
On the theme of heritage, Michael says the restaurant currently has a side dish of pumpkin fritters with aioli, parmesan crumble and chives. Personally however, he reveals his Durban roots: "The heirloom recipe of my family that is special and makes me feel connected to my family’s history, has to be my mother’s chicken curry - the best I’ve eaten."
This Heritage Day he's hoping to braai with his children either at home or with family.
Michael's braai tip: Keep your lamb chops/cutlets together as a unit, facing the same way. Give them a good brush of braai sauce and put the meat on the braai - fat side down (rib side facing up). Keep them in place and cook until crispy. Have some water or beer on standby as the flames will jump when the fat drips into the coals.
After a few minutes, turn over the meat and braai the rib side for a further 8-10 minutes. Then, separate each cutlet, lying them flat on the grid. Season and cook to your liking. This way the fat is crispy and delicious as well as the meat being evenly cooked.
Michael’s recipe: Marinated tomatoes with basil and soy
- 2 ripe oxheart tomatoes sliced 4-5mm thick (the larger ones with more flesh and less liquid)
- Few basil leaves washed and dried
- About 30-50ml of an extra virgin superior olive oil
- About 1 Tbsp(15ml) of white balsamic or white wine vinegar
- About 1 Tbsp(15ml) soy sauce
Find a suitable sized dish and pour in the Balsamic and soy and half the oil, shake the dish a little to amalgamate the liquids. Place the tomatoes slightly overlapping on top of the liquid in the dish then pour over the rest of the olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper. Garnish with a few basil leaves and allow the flavours to mellow for a few minutes at room temp. I sometimes add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice if the tomatoes are sweet.
Eat with main course or pass around standing at the fire. Dip your braaibroodjies in the leftover sauce.
Chef Guy Bennett @ Grande Provence Heritage Estate, Franschhoek
Guy Bennett is the executive chef at Grande Provence and says he always keeps locals in mind with regards to dishes on the menu, regardless of the month of the year. “There are subtle South African elements always present on my menus.”
He will be on holiday in Hong Kong and venturing to Vietnam over the Heritage Day weekend, but will be arranging a braai over there, with South African friends.
“On the farm we will host an amazing, relaxed gourmet braai on Heritage Day; a great way for families and friends to get together at Grande Provence. Expect a feast and good times! The staff working on the day will also get together and have a special lunch together - most likely boerie rolls for the crew,” he says.
Guy's best braai tips:
- Only use the best braai wood. He prefers Rooikrans and Kameeldoring. "Perfect dryness and wood quality results in perfect long-lasting coals";
- Have all the necessary tools, food (marinades, salads, sides, condiments) and extras ready before braaing. Preparation is key!
- Light the fire well ahead of time and top up with extra wood as you go. No one likes to eat at 10pm if it’s a dinner braai or at 4pm when lunch started at noon.
- Get creative with vegetables. Everything from beetroot to aubergine to cauliflower; it's all about that perfect charring and the amazing flavours. A bit of heavy-duty foil is great to have handy. Get some colour on the vegetables and finish them in foil with olive oil, butter and herbs.
Guy's recipe: Ouma's aniseed rusks.
- 1,5 cups castor sugar
- 3 eggs
- 500ml buttermilk
- Packet whole aniseed (35g) – use half or full box to taste
- 500g melted butter
- 1,5 kg self-rising flour
Cream sugar and eggs well. Add Aniseeds and buttermilk and stir. Add melted butter. Add flour and mix to a dough. Spoon into a buttered baking tray. Bake at 180°C for 1 hour. Using a sharp knife, cut into oblong squares. Dry in oven at 70°C for 4 hours.
Chef Debbie McLaughlin @ Hilda’s Kitchen, Darling
Debbie has been at Hilda’s Kitchen at Groote Post for 16 years. “That in itself is a sign of heritage,” she declares.
Some of the awards she has won include Best New Restaurant on the West Coast while they've had numerous entries in Eat Out’s Annual Best Restaurants editions.
For September she prepares woodfired legs of lamb on the braai and serves it with a mint and tomato vinaigrette.
Her braai recipe that works well for her and her husband, Shaun, the braai master at the restaurant, is their garlic mayo as a complement to ribeye steak grilled on the coals.
A reflection of heritage on the restaurant’s menu is the addition of a reference to Hildagonda Duckitt (after whom the restaurant is named), in the form of a relish or pickle that accompanies the selection of Darling cured meats. These relishes or chutneys are inspired by her cookbook Hilda’s Where is it? of Recipes.
On Heritage Day Debbie and Shaun will attend a braai hosted by Darling College, the town’s independent school which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “No doubt, we all will enjoy some Darling wines, Darling Brew and recently introduced Darlington Gin too!”
“As far as a heritage dish is concerned, a recent introduction to our menu has been a Gourmet Bunny Chow. We have had a local artisanal baker - Brett at Rosmead - produce a sourdough roll which we hollow out and fill with a mild deboned lamb curry which we serve with toasted coconut and various homemade sambals like a courgette relish and homemade peach chutney. We’ve had it on the menu for six months now and it has become so popular that we cannot take it off!”
Debbie and Shaun's recipe: Garlic Mayo
Braai a whole head of garlic over coals until the cloves are soft and squishy. Squeeze the garlic puree out into a food processor. Add the yolks of 2 free range eggs and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Slowly blend in a stream of sunflower oil (about 250ml) until you are left with a creamy garlic mayonnaise.
Shaun’s best braai tip: After years of experimenting with wet and dry marinades, rubs and concoctions he uses only salt and pepper and adds any additions only once the meat/fish or bird is finished on the braai.
Chef de Cuisine Gregory Czarnecki @ The Restaurant at Waterkloof Estate, Somerset West
The French-born Gregory at Waterkloof Estate boasts three Top 10 Best Restaurant titles in Eat Out as well as Chef of the Year in 2016.
His perspective of heritage is: “Our mentors took the time to teach us. It is our duty to now keep our craft alive and pass it onto the next generation. Our culture and heritage define us; it's what makes us who we are even as a chefs.”
“Most of my dishes are inspired by memories or flavours that I recall from childhood. For example, one of the courses is based on flavours of crepes Suzette, my favourite dessert as a kid. Another example: I took the very first dessert I ever made as an apprentice - Rum baba - and 20 years later made my own version of the dish. It's those original flavours I miss the most. The flavours that made me discover the culinary arts and the magic behind it.”
His fondest food memory from his childhood is Sunday night semolina vanilla and sugar made by his grandmother. “It was served in a bright yellow plastic plate ... this always followed with the most amazing experience as a child; teleportation - that moment when you fall asleep in front of the TV and wake up in your bed.”
On his menu he plays with some flavours that are truly South African like Buchu, Mebos or Durban curry and even his comfort food is a heritage recipe of malva pudding. “That is my true favourite, especially on those very cold days. I am so obsessed with it and sometimes drink the syrup by the ladle.”
Gregory's best braai tip: For a flavourful steak, marinade at least two hours in a mixture of English mustard, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and soy sauce. “It is simple but very tasteful.”
Beate Joubert @ Deli Alfresco, Barrydale
Beate opened Deli Alfresco at Joubert-Tradauw outside Barrydale in the Tradouw valley in 1999 in her garden on the farm and later moved down to the cellar. As a teenager, Beate worked in top restaurants in Pretoria such as La Madeleine, helped with catering at the Jewish church to learn all aspects of catering and then worked in France, America, Switzerland and Scotland before settling on the farm with her husband and winemaker, Meyer.
Beate boasts a prize for her cookbook, Taste the Little Karoo, as Best Local Cuisine Book from the World Cookbook Awards in Jantai, China, that she attended two years ago.
Her menu is a celebration of local produce and her own heritage. Beate and her kitchen team bakes, roasts and prepares everything fresh and most of her vegetables and herbs come from her vegetable garden. She serves Klein Karoo tapas with homemade bread, liver pate with onion marmalade, local cheeses and fresh fruit compote and fresh salads with asparagus, strawberries and gruyere.
Beate says her favourite wine is the R62 Cabernet Franc which scored 94 points in the latest Tim Atkin SA Report.
On Heritage Day, Beate offers diners homemade pizzas from her pizza oven, served on beautiful wooden boards she had made in Mozambique. The Joubert family will celebrate Heritage Day with family and friends around a long table.
One of her all-time favourite recipes that has been part of the Joubert family for many years, is the Quiche Lorraine or cheese souffle, both of which are in her recipe book. Embracing her mum's advice of "less is more", Beate serves them with a biltong or coppa salad with a simple French salad dressing.
Beate's best braai tip: Use coarse salt on the meat while you braai. “It seals the meat, makes it crispy and keeps the moisture captured. Never overuse marinades on meat, only good quality South African olive oil and fresh herbs. No salt in your mixture, as it extracts moisture.” She also believes that you braai meat on high heat for a short time and then let it rest. If need be, quickly heat it again, but never leave it on the grill for too long.
Chef Nic van Wyk @ Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, Franschhoek
Nic started at the restaurant at Haute Cabrière last year. He was trained at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch. For his in-service training, he sought out Franck Dangereux, who was then based at La Colombe and asked to join the team after he finished studying in 2000. He opened Terroir Restaurant with Michael Broughton, then opened The Barnyard Brasserie in Durbanville, before returning to Kleine Zalze for three years. He also opened Diemersdal farm eatery in Durbanville.
It was in 2013 that his TV career started with the first season of Kokkedoor, an Afrikaans reality cooking show screened on kykNET. Nic opened Bistro 13 in Stellenbosch in 2014, on Welmoed Wine Farm. In 2016 a three-month consulting job for Haute Cabrière turned into a partnership with the restaurant, and in 2017 Bistro 13 was sold when he moved into the Haute Cabrière kitchen.
In terms of Heritage, the restaurant’s winter menu had dishes of Karoo lamb and peperboontjies, venison and sago pudding. “We always try to present flavours South Africans love in our menus. Naturally, we also enjoying showcasing how we eat to our foreign guests,” he says.
When asked what he's up to for the public holiday, he laughs and says: “Working! Like most chefs, we work when everyone else finishes. I am really enjoying my indoor braai, so will definitely celebrate the day.”
Nic's best braai tip: Use dry wood, a good fire-starter and a long chimney! “Braaiing is about nostalgia, so if your company is good, the rest is all a bonus.”
Nic says the meal that makes him feel connected to his family’s history is his grandmother’s dish of liver with onions, served with a sweet and sour sauce. “It has been on all my restaurant menus in some form, and it's something that I get a craving for at least every six months, and need to make it, exactly as she did.”
Nic’s recipe: Kaiings, the ultimate braai snack
- 1kg pork back fat
- Splash of water
Cut the back fat into cubes, roughly 2cm x 2cm. Place in a cold pot on the stove, with a splash of water. The water prevents the fat from sticking at the start point. The water will evaporate.
On a very low heat, cook the cubes until crispy, for the first 15 minutes, stir regularly to ensure the cubes do not stick. This process will take at least two hours. When crispy, drain and season while hot with salt. Allow to cool and serve.
“The liquid (rendered pork fat) left in the pot makes an excellent spread for toast! Keep it,” he adds.
Chef Kim Cox @ Kombuis, Rawsonville
Kim joined the kitchen at BOSJES Kombuis two years ago, just prior to opening. Her first tasks were sourcing and securing suppliers and getting menus into place.
At the restaurant Heritage Month is celebrated with a focus on South African favourites with twists, like Ox Tongue with cabbage, radish and apple salad; Karoo Lamb T-bone with olives and baby potato and rounding it off with a complimentary brandy schnapp cigar filled with amarula Chantilly cream served with coffee or teas. “The Karoo Lamb T-bone and Ox Tongue salad both goes very well with our Bosjes Red, a Cape Blend,” she says.
She is planning to spend Heritage Day like the many fellow South Africans with friends, beer and braaivleis.
Kim's best braai tip: Use dry wood; stock up on beer; and, allow for plenty of time. "A proper braai party should start late morning and only end when the stars are shining!"
The recipe she associates with good times with her family is grilled Kassler chops with crushed pineapple, mashed potatoes and peas.
Kim’s recipe: BBC Bread (Bacon, beer and cheese)
- 3 eggs
- 150gm flour
- Third of a packet instant yeast
- 100g sunflower oil
- 125g warm full cream milk
- 100g grated emmantaler
- 50g grated cheddar
- 150g fried diced bacon
- 1 Teaspoon mustard
- 50g beer (any flavour)
- Salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Mix the cheese, bacon, mustard and beer together and let it stand for 30min. Mix the flour, yeast, oil warm milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix everything together add to medium sized loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes.
Chef Shannon Botes @ De Krans Bistro, Calitzdorp
Shannon joined De Krans Wine Farm as bistro manager and became its chef last year. He has been in the restaurant industry for six years and completed his Culinary Arts Diploma through the Francois Ferreira Academy in George. The De Krans Bistro was singled out for a top destination award in the 2018 Klein Karoo Gourmand Awards.
His braai secret is using good quality meat at room temperature and not over marinated. “I usually use only a bit of olive oil and Pink Port style wine from the farm.”
He is working on Heritage Day and patrons can look forward to Samp and Beans (Umqusho) with Kaiings and a fried egg served with a Spekboom salsa and for a snack, he will serve his famous Beer Bread served with Biltong Tawny Port Pate and green figs.
Shannon’s recipe: Hunter-style mushroom sauce
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 125g mushrooms, sliced
- 30ml butter
- Pinch thyme or oregano
- 30ml tomato paste
- 250ml basic brown sauce
- 100ml cream
Sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the butter until the mushrooms are soft, add the thyme or oregano, tomato paste and brown sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add the cream. Great with steak, roast beef or even as a pasta sauce. Serves 2.
Shannon says, “When I entertain around the fire, I always give a little ‘something’ as lining for the evening. I grill steak and slice it and then serve it on the sauce.”
Chef Joslin Dairies @ Bodega de Vinho, Robertson
Joslin is the chef at Rooiberg Winery's restaurant. He grew up in an environment where food and trying out new recipes was a family affair. He loves flavour combinations, texture and fresh herbs.
For Heritage Day, he plans to braai steak with a homemade mushroom sauce, his famous broccoli salad and a bottle of Pinotage (SA's home-grown variety).
Joslin's best braai tip: Hot coals are a must for good steak; use fresh thyme; and, nothing is more irritating that a sub-standard basting brush: make sure it can do the job.
His favourite family recipe is oxtail – a recipe that has been in the family for generations. “It is on the Christmas menu every year and although I try, I can never get it as good as my father makes it, but he does not want to reveal his secret touch!”
Joslin’s recipe: Broccoli, bacon and sour-cream salad
- 2 heads of broccoli
- 500g diced bacon
- 500ml sour-cream
- 250ml mayonnaise
- 1 finely chopped onion
- Grated cheddar
- Mixed herbs
Steam the broccoli while frying the onion and bacon. Mix the sour-cream and mayonnaise together. Grate Cheddar over and garnish with mixed herbs.
Chef Frans Groenewald @ Gabriëlskloof Restaurant, Botriver
Frans and his wife, Mariaan, have owned the restaurant at Gabriëlskloof for the past nine years.
Heritage is very important to them. “We are a close family. The traditions and the history of our parents and grandparents play a big role in our lives," says Frans. "There are a few family recipes that I cherish such as my parents’ whole wheat bread, all their jams and of course their souskluitjies.”
Gabriëlskloof plans to take Braai Day to a whole new level this year. The focus will be traditional delicacies with a "modern spin" and Overberg specialties.
Although the public holiday falls on Monday, the winery restaurant opted to host its own festivities on the preceding Sunday (September 23), giving families the opportunity to linger longer.
Last year, Frans created melktert spring rolls, which were a hit. Now the menu for this year’s festivities also features a venison potjie.
The kitchen also makes its own wors and skilpadjies (liver wrapped in caul fat), which will accompany braaibroodjies, pap and chakalaka sauce plus a variety of salads.
An after-party is also in the offing, hosted for staff by Frans and Mariaan.
Frans's braai tip: Have enough coals so you can mix and match, depending on the food you're grilling.