Ok, so after 57 recipes you should by now know that I love “braai-ing” – this is the South African name for open fire cooking, or BBQ as the majority of the world knows it. But let me just tell you, there is absolutely no nation in the world that is as “be-fok” (that’s another Afrikaans word for obsessed, sort of 😉 with braaing.
And quite honestly, there is absolutely no other nation that has the art of cooking on an open flame as down as South Africans. Yes, BBQ’ing in the USA is HUUUUGE…there are competitions where people win US$ 100,000 for the best BBQ…but the average South African’s Saturday braai will be able to compete! In actual fact, I think the first thing that is given to a baby as it is born is a set of braai-tongs or BBQ tongs – IT’S JUST IN OUR BLOOD, PEOPLE!
So you will be shocked to find that the last time I actually cooked on an open flame was nearly a year ago, before we made the move from South Africa to Europe! Living in an apartment in Europe there are certain restrictions and one is you cannot have a BBQ with an open flame on the balcony. I guess from a fire-hazard point of view they have reason – however, they do not understand that a South African is at one with a braai! Anyway, it-is-what-it-is, so we have had to live with steaks off the griddle-pan, cooked on the stove top.
Well, today, we were walking through the supermarket getting necessities in this crazy lockdown situation and there it was…in the isle, just calling my name – a “Braai” or BBQ – but, you may say, no braaing on the “stoep” (balcony in Afrikaans)…and my answer is simple – ELECTRIC BBQ, BABY.
Yes, I know, it does not have a flame or a place where you can make a fire, but it is as close to dammit as I am allowed. And it is a kettle-shape, just like my WEBER I had in South Africa. Check it out:
So we bought it, and obviously I had to take it for a test drive. Aleks, my wife, has had a hankering for prawns, so we got some lovely queens and made kebabs (recipe to follow in #58).
But today, we are talking about the Braai Broodjie, which directly translated from Afrikaans is BBQ Bread…but best described as a BBQ Toastie. This is also not found all-over South Africa…it really hails from the Western Cape (Cape Town area). It is a thing of such simplicity and perfection that it basically blows your mind! And you may ask, “but isn’t it just a toasted sandwich?”
The answer is YES and NOOOOOOO! But let me start at the beginning.
Traditionally a “braai broodjie” is simply made with two slices of white bread, some thinly sliced onion, slices of tomato and a bit of peach chutney. All put together and then grilled over the open flame.
I told you earlier, it is SIMPLICITY….BUT the catch comes in the grilling. You see, the fire needs to be just right. It must not be too hot…in actual fact it must be at a heat that is not hot enough to grill your meat. The reason is that you want to toast it slowly so that it becomes just that right shade of golden brown, and not burn. Yet your onions need to be cooked through and the tomato just soft.
So here is the conundrum – the “braai broodjie” is usually served as the starter, so how the hell do you get this right, because you cannot wait for the heat to come down to grill your “broodjie” and then grill your meat afterwards (the fire is too cold now, damn). And you can obviously NOT grill the “broodjie” when fire is too hot – so??
Well most self-respecting “braai” aficionados will have actually have a second “braai” just for the “broodjies” – yes, that’s right – it is so important, it get’s it’s own BBQ!
Again, you may say, “well then why not just get a table top sandwich press or pop them into the oven?” – and the answer is simple, whilst both of those methods make a mean toastie, they cannot add the smokey not that the flame adds – AND that is what makes the “braai broodjie” so special – try it and you will see!
So, today, when I put together the Electric “Braai” – I got my own hankering – yes, you got it, a “braai broodjie”…and you know what I found out, the electric “braai” is PERFECT for a “braai broodjie” – you see, the “braai” comes with a normal griddle, a pizza stone (yeaah – going to be doing many more pizzas) as well as two metal plates that assist in regulating the heat flow – and the one basically emulates the heat distribution fan from a convection oven.
So I popped in the “convection” plate and grilled my “braai broodjies” – and they were perfect.
What I was really worried about is the smokey note that the flame adds – but the “Electric Braai” comes with a little smoke box – voila! So just add a few wood chips and you have your smoke 🙂
Well, back the the recipe – we are really walking on hallowed ground here, and to change away from the original recipe you need to proceed with extreme caution and care, or else the ancestors will turn in their graves!
Because of that I have, I did tread very lightly in my experimentations…but I think even the ancestors will enjoy my rendition of the “braai broodjie.” Check it out below.
RECIPE TIP – Just remember the heat of the braai needs to be perfect – you should be able to hold your hand where the griddle is for at least 20 seconds before it becomes to hot. Your braai broodjie should take at least 25-30 minutes to grill. I can assure you that you will need to experiment and learn before you truly become a “braai broodjie” master!