Book Review: Jan Braai Red Hot

Jan Scannell

Bookstorm

Review: Brian Joss

Jan Scannell better known as Jan Braai is the man who single-handedly turned Heritage Day, September 24, into Braai Day, first published Red Hot in 2013 by Bookstorm and Macmillan. Now the definitive braai guide has been published in paperback for the first time by Bookstorm.

It is jam-packed with tantalising dishes for the fire, whether you use wood, charcoal or gas. But says Jan Braai, wealthy urban and poor rural people all braai with wood, it’s the great equaliser. Surprisingly you can make Bolognese (spagbol) at a braai, using a potjie and cooking the pasta in a separate pot.

Apart from the recipes for beef, lamb, pork, seafood and the even the average burger, given the royal treatment (see the recipe), there are to-die for desserts from the humble pancake to the Benchmark Malva Pudding and a Brandy Tiramisu (you don’t need a fire to make it). The recipes are not carved in stone, and says Jan Braai, you’ll have to use your common sense. If a dish calls for eight cloves of garlic and you prefer four, then just use four; if a recipe call for red wine, and you only have white, use it; and if the recipe says it will serve four, and you have six guests, just serve smaller portions.

You can make all kinds of dishes on a braai, and if you follow Jan Braai’s recipes you’ll be the most popular braaier on the block.

Jan Braai has eight commandments for the perfect braai. Here are some: if you’re in doubt whether your fire is big enough, then your fire is not big enough; you need three measurement tools: cups, tot glasses (those used to pour drinks in pubs), and  teaspoons and life’s to short too peel potatoes.

CHICKEN, CAMEMBERT, FIG AND BACON BURGER

This dish is juicy, creamy, sweet and salty. It’s a dream team combination and discovering it whilst braaing at home one evening was one of my inspirations for writing this book. Let’s burn the rulebook and emancipate the braai. You can create great tasting, beautifully looking meals on the coals of a wood fire.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 burgers)

4 soft hamburger rolls 4 chicken breast fillets, skinless and boneless 1 tot olive oil 1 round of camembert cheese, sliced 4 preserved green figs, sliced (or 4 fresh ripe figs when in season) about 8 slices of smoked streaky bacon a packet of rocket leaves (or watercress leaves) butter (to butter the rolls) salt and black pepper for seasoning

METHOD

  1. Place each chicken breast fillet flat on a chopping board and lightly pound the thick side with a meat mallet, wine bottle, rolling pin, side of a meat cleaver or any other item of sufficient weight and size. You want the whole fillet more uniform in thickness and this step will make the meat easier to braai, better looking on your burger and more tender to bite.
  2. Spice each chicken fillet with salt and pepper and then lightly coat them with oil. Either brush each one with oil or simply pour a bit of oil into the bowl with them and toss the fillets around until all are coated.
  3. Braai the meat for about 6–10 minutes until it is done. The nice thing about chicken breast fillets is that you can actually see the meat colour changing from raw to ready on the braai. When you are satisfied that the chicken is almost ready and you’ve turned it

for a final time, distribute the slices of Camembert onto the chicken breasts. You want the heat from the meat and fire to slightly melt the cheese. Now you cannot turn the chicken again as the cheese will then be lost onto the coals. Remove from fire when ready.

  1. You want the slices of streaky bacon to be nice and crispy. The easiest and tastiest way to achieve this is on a braai grid over the coals. Lay them out carefully and only turn them once. If there’s space on your grid, to this at the same time that you’re braaing the chicken. Remove from fire when ready.
  2. Slice and butter the hamburger rolls and lay them buttered insides on the grid as well. The idea is to lightly toast the buttered insides of the rolls. Extreme care should be taken not to overbraai and burn the rolls. Remove from fire when ready.
  3. To assemble your burger, start with the bottom half of a toasted bun, then add some rocket/watercress leaves. Top with the chicken fillet (with melted cheese), then top with sliced figs and finally 2 pieces of bacon. Cover with the top half of the toasted bun. Enjoy immediately – this burger is amazing. AND Although not for the same length of time, the chicken, bacon and rolls can be braaied at the same time. Your aim is to have all the ingredients hot off the grid together. During the braai bacon strips falling through the grid onto the coals and bread rolls burning are your two main risks. If you’re doing this meal in large quantities I suggest a braai assistant or two giving a hand.

BRANDY TIRAMISU

I know this is not a meal you make on a fire but, first, it’s one of my favourite desserts. And second, it contains brandy, which not only gives it a nice South African flavour but also makes it a de facto braai dish. A word of caution: one of the ingredients is castor sugar and you have to use that; normal sugar simply does not work. I’ve bumped my head so that you don’t have to.

WHAT YOU NEED (serves 4–6, depending on the size of your serving glasses)

3 eggs (separated)

¾ cup castor sugar

250 g mascarpone cheese (i.e. 1 tub)

1 cup strong black coffee (chilled)

3 tots brandy

1 box sponge fingers (like Boudoir biscuits)

some cocoa powder (for decoration)

WHAT TO DO

  1. Separate the eggs into two mixing bowls, one for yolks and one for whites. This is really not difficult, but if you’ve never done it before, ask someone for help. A bit of egg white in the yolk bowl is not a crisis, but make sure that there are no bits of yolk with the whites, otherwise the whites won’t whip to stiff peaks.
  2. Using a clean and dry hand whisk or electric beaters, whisk the egg whites in a mixing bowl until they are thick, hold their shape and form stiff peaks when you lift the whisk out of the egg.
  3. Using another mixing bowl, use the same whisk to beat the egg yolks and castor sugar until the mixture turns a pale yellow colour and doubles in volume. Add the mascarpone cheese and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Using a large metal spoon, add half of the whisked egg whites to the mascarpone mixture, folding it in. This means to carefully stir the mixture in a figure-of-eight motion without losing any of the airiness and volume that we created while whisking. When the mixture is smooth, add the remaining half of the egg whites, folding it in again until the mixture is smooth and thick, almost like a mousse. Set it aside.
  5. Mix the coffee with the brandy in a large mug so that it’s ready for the next step.
  6. To assemble: Fill four to six brandy glasses two-thirds of the way with the Tiramisu mixture from step 4. Briefly dip each biscuit into the coffee mixture and then press the biscuits vertically down into the Tiramisu-filled glasses, using about four biscuits per glass. Don’t soak the biscuits in the coffee mixture otherwise they will be too soft. If there is any Tiramisu mixture left, fill up the glasses equally with it. The ends of the biscuits will probably show – that’s fine. Sift or sprinkle a thin layer of cocoa powder over the top and refrigerate. AND … Make this at least 4–6 hours ahead of your braai, as the biscuits need time to soften and the flavour needs time to develop. The Tiramisu is even better if you prepare it a day in advance. You can also make it in one large rectangular dish. Arrange the soaked biscuits in two layers, covering each layer of biscuits with a layer of Tiramisu mixture – almost like assembling lasagne.

*Recipes from Red Hot, courtesy Jan Braai and Bookstorm.

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