It’s fairly easy to destroy great meat and turn it into something average or poor by over-spicing or over-braaing it. Employing either or both of these methods puts it within any braaier’s grasp to turn good meat into a distasteful eating experience.
Bad meat, on the other hand, is different. No matter how you marinate and spice it, a piece of bad meat will never turn into something good; you simply hide the degree of unpleasantness.
Should meat be tough, no amount of spice will change that. If meat is sinewy, no marinade will make it less so. Sure, there are dubious meat-tenderising products on the market, but these will ruin the texture. If you’re willing to sink that low, you should consider braaing less and save to buy better meat.
Possibly the best illustration of this good-versus-bad principle comes from an all-time South African favourite: boerewors. No matter how great your lamb loin chop or rib-eye steak, you’ll still need to sprinkle it with at least a bit of salt. Great boerewors, though, can be enjoyed as is.
Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling recently invited me to a braai near his home at Val de Vie, where he heads up his Learn To Swim centre. This meant I had to leave the comforts of Cape Town and traverse what the locals call the boerewors curtain (akin to driving through Gauteng’s Boksburg/ Benoni/Brakpan triangle).
As I was passing through the Northern Suburbs, it seemed a great opportunity to sample the merchandise on offer. A few calls and two small detours later, I had two kilograms of boerewors from two highly rated boerie butcheries: Tara butchery in Sonstraal, Durbanville (tel 021-975-1435) and Joey’s butchery in Brackenfell (tel 021-981-3324).
We kept the braai at Ryk’s estate between Franschhoek and Paarl simple: real wood fire, a bottle of his signature red wine (produced on the estate) and two kilograms of quality boerewors. The wors contained little fat, so I had to take care not to over braai and dry it out.
There were no knives, forks or condiments: good boerewors has enough flavour, an abundance of natural juices and can be eaten by hand. We did need wine glasses. Drinking from the bottle is easy enough, but swirling the wine and sniffing it before drinking is impossible.
There are hundreds of great butcheries across South Africa making exceptional boerewors. Make the effort to find those in your vicinity – and get into the good habit of braaing great boerewors, perfectly.
Once you’ve found the best boerewors in your area, make these rolls:
Fry the onion, pepper and chilli in oil until soft, add the garlic and fry a short while longer. Add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then leave it simmering while you light the fire. By the time you’ve finished braaing, the flavour of your relish will have developed nicely. Add salt and pepper.
Jan Braai is the man behind National Braai Day. Read about it on braai.com or follow him on Twitter @janbraai.
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