BRAAIbeeQ sauce, for all of your smothering needs

In many ways, South African and American cuisine are very similar. An example of a similar tradition in both food cultures, is the barbecue, or the braai in South Africa. Depending on where one is from in the States, the barbecue is perhaps important, but I would venture that many Americans, at least in the upper Midwest, would not describe BBQ as a central aspect of their cuisine. I know that the story of BBQ may be different for Americans from the South, but either way; for many (if not most) South Africans, the braai is an integral, even a central dimension of South African cooking. So integral, in fact, that many affluent South Africans opt to build a “braai room” in their house, and will even prepare dinner several nights a week on their braai. For the more average South Africans, the braai is perhaps less elaborate, yet no less important.

This is barely even the tip of the iceberg in terms of the depth of braai culture, but suffice to say that the centrality of this tradition has a gigantic consumer industry attached to it, which includes endless marinades, rubs, seasonings, and sauces for all braai tastes. In the midst of such limitless possibilities of braai accessories, there lurk a number of sauces which are completely South African and just so happen to share the same name as the quintessentially American “BBQ sauce.” Unfortunately for me, the only way to know is obviously to taste these “impostors” in order to discover that the name “BBQ sauce” is clearly only a literal description for sauces which one applies to foods which have been barbecued. Because of this, I have been compelled to develop my own recipe for BBQ sauce, because Jimmy and Durky just weren’t cutting it.

BRAAIbeeQ sauce 

Yield: about 750ml (about 3 cups)

  • 1 cup (about 230ml) tomato paste*
  • 3 cups water (about 750ml)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbs hot mustard
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes, or 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp beef stock powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 onion, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method:

Combine tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, and mustard in a saucepan until thoroughly mixed. Then add remaining dry ingredients, followed by the water. Heat mixture until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to gently simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until thickened, when the consistency reaches that of, well; BBQ sauce. Use this sauce for all of your BRAAIbeeQing; as a marinade, as a basting sauce, with pulled pork or chicken, smothered on some wings, or however you condiment.

 

 

Original, Classical, Quintessential, Traditional Mac ‘n Cheese

In Japan you can buy cheese by the slice. It turns out that one slice (30g of cheese, or about 1 ounce, to be exact) is just the right amount to make a single serving of macaroni and cheese. This is important when cheesperation (desperation due to lack of regular consumption of cheese) sets in. Luckily, the other ingredients required for a simple cheese sauce are readily available in Japanese supermarkets. Thus armed with disproportionately expensive cheese slices (at 100 yen for a single slice, it costs more per kilo than Norwegian Salmon), I learned to whip up a classic bowl of mac ‘n cheese.

I finally perfected this prototypical American dish in South Africa, which is important because South Africans tend towards a very liberal understanding of what constitutes “macaroni and cheese.” It seems to be that any grouping of ingredients, as long as it includes macaroni noodles and cheese, can be called “macaroni and cheese.” While many American recipes are admittedly flexible about permissible inclusions, I would argue that the dish demarcated as “macaroni and cheese” at least requires a cheese sauce. My next requirement is probably more of an opinion– I would say it’s really a tradition– but I would further argue that the cheese sauce should be partially, or even predominantly flavo(u)red with cheddar cheese.

Original, Classical, Quintessential, Traditional Mac ‘n Cheese

Yield: about 4 servings

  • 2 cups [uncooked] macaroni noodles*
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for garnishing
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper

*any noodle with a textured or varied surface, such as shells or fusilli, will also work just fine. Avoid thinner noodles like spaghetti or tagliatelle, since they won’t hold their shape or the sauce as well.

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Cook the macaroni noodles in salted water for half the time cited on the package instructions, and then drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour until a uniform paste forms. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. Continue stirring slowly but constantly in order to make a smooth sauce. When the mixture starts to thicken, add the paprika, cheddar, and Parmesan, and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick and uniform. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Combine the par-cooked noodles and the sauce in a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top of the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese garnish starts to bubble and brown. Don’t delay, eat right away.