South Africans braai, we love to braai, we have a National Braai Day dedicated to our favourite pastime - that’s how much we enjoy it! However, braais can become bland… the same old, same old. We suggest adding herbs to your braai cooking and condiments to spice up your braai flavour.
Best Herb Marinades and Rubs
Rosemary – Mix two tablespoons of fresh rosemary or two large sprigs, half a cup of lemon juice, an eighth of a cup of olive oil and one lemon sliced. Use for chicken, lamb or pork. Let the meat marinade overnight.
Lavender – In a small spice or coffee grinder, coarsely grind black peppercorns, white peppercorns, fennel seeds, thyme, and lavender flowers. Rub mixture all over the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight (preferably). Use for steak or beef fillet.
Sweet basil – Mix ⅓ of a cup of olive oil, ¼ of a cup lemon juice, one tablespoon chopped fresh basil, two teaspoons chopped lemon thyme, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper and two cloves of garlic finely chopped. Use for fish or chicken. Marinade overnight and use the marinade to baste during grilling.
Upright growing Tuscan rosemary produces straight stems that can be stripped and used as skewers for kebabs with meat and vegetables, or melon and strawberries. The flavour of rosemary from the sticks infuses subtly into the meat and veggies.
Where there is smoke…
Cut a few sprigs of rosemary and lay them over the chicken or lamb being grilled or roasted. The flavour will infuse into the meat. Rosemary sprigs can also be added to the fire and the heat will release the aroma and add a smokey rosemary taste to the meat.
Herb Dips and Spreads
The best part of the braai is socialising around the fire, waiting for the coals to develop. Keep the hunger pangs muted with herb dips served with savoury biscuits and vegetable crudités.
Using plain cottage or cream cheese as a base, add finely chopped herbs such as chives, spring onions, basil, lemon thyme, and tarragon. Season with salt and black pepper; add a squeeze of lemon juice, a dollop of mayonnaise and even a dash of chilli. Make the dip in advance so that the flavours have time to develop.
Herbs for breads
Herb or garlic bread is almost always on the menu. Buy a French loaf, slice it thickly (but not all the way through) and spread with homemade herb butter. Wrap it in foil and heat in the oven.
Herbs suitable for herb butters are basil, chervil, parsley, chives, garlic chives and lemon thyme. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the softened butter with a little lemon juice (optional).
Herbs for Salad
Although meat or fish are the stars of the show, no braai is complete without fresh, crunchy salads. The most popular herbs for salad are sweet basil, mint, rocket, dill or fennel and chives or garlic chives. Lesser-known herbs that also add colour and flavour to salads include salad burnet, par-cel (looks like parsley, tastes like celery), horseradish, Vietnamese coriander (otherwise known as hot mint), lemon balm, bloody sorrel, and the mushroom plant (Rungia klossi).
Herbs with tough or strongly flavoured leaves, like thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary, are not really suitable for salads but are delicious when used in salad dressings such as herbal vinaigrettes. Allow the flavour of the herbs to develop by letting the dressing stand for at least 15 minutes before use. Alternatively used herb-infused oils that can easily be made at home.
Finish off the braai with a light, cool desert-like fresh mint ice cream. Finely chop seven or eight sprigs of mint, put in a food blender and blend in 5 tablespoons caster sugar. When well mixed, stir in 375ml crème fraîche. Whisk 3 egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture. If you have an ice cream maker, transfer the mixture into that and proceed according to instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put the mixture in a tub in the freezer and beat it with a fork every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals. As a variation grate chocolate or use chocolate chips to make an even more exotic ice cream.
That’s the whole menu sorted, zhooshed up and sure to please your guests.