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.

 

 

Student Loan Meatballs

My first attempt to make meatballs was part of an elaborate scheme to impress a date. Because I was remitting most of my extra income home to pay my student loans, I didn’t have a lot of spare cash to dine in restaurants in Japan, which is generally pretty pricey unless your date is impressed by Saizeriya or Yoshinoya. I had however, developed what I felt (and still feel) is a fantastic recipe for spaghetti sauce. Armed with this sauce, I carefully researched all kinds of recipes, searching for the ideal combination of spices and flavo(u)rings, and came up with a pretty decent initial meatball construction. Since then, I have come across many meatball theories. By far the best of these is the addition of grated onion and garlic, as opposed to the more conventional diced/minced inclusion.

The grating of the quintessential alliums is preferable for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important is that grating releases more of the juices of these flavo(u)rful bulbs; we all know that a juicy meatball is the best meatball. The next reason, which is admittedly unimportant or even not preferable to some, is that the addition of grated onion and garlic contributes to a better overall homogeneity in the texture of the meatball. The final reason is perhaps the most crucial for those who are torn between preparing decent-tasting food and cooking for those who dislike onions and/or garlic: grating these vegetables renders them completely undetectable to even the pickiest anti-onion meatball consumer.

 

Student Loan Meatballs 

Yield: about 10 meatballs, or about 5 servings

  • 500g (about 1lb) lean ground beef*
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small fresh chili, or about 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs olive oil, plus a glug (about 1 tbs) for frying

*If you are using beef, it’s a good idea to use lean (as opposed to extra lean). You want a little bit of fat to keep the meatballs a bit stickier. Alternatively, you can use this recipe with just about any ground meat of your choice. I recently made this with a 50/50 mix of pork and ostrich.

Method

In a mixing bowl, grate the onion and garlic directly into the bowl to catch as much juice as possible. Add the ground meat, herbs and spices, and olive oil. Knead the mixture until it is thoroughly mixed. Doing this with your hands is best, but I guess you can use a fork if you’re feeling delicate or you don’t have immediate access to soap or something. Form the mixture into balls, and place in a sealed container to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. At this stage, you can also freeze the meatballs for later use (thaw them in the fridge when you’re ready to cook them). Leave the meatballs in the fridge until you’re ready to fry them.

Pre-heat a nonstick frying pan. It’s important to pre-heat the pan so the meatballs “seal” nicely. When the pan is heated (it doesn’t need to be smoking hot, just hot enough so a few drops of water sizzle away), add a glug of oil. Arrange the meatballs with plenty of space between each one, and fry without moving or touching them until the bottom begins to turn golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Carefully rotate the meatballs and continue frying until they are browned on all sides, around 10-15 minutes. Serve them in any way you see fit, such as perched on top of pasta bathed in red sauce.