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Beer and a braai: summer barbecue perfection

Nothing quite beats an ice-cold beer with a summer barbecue, and, when it comes to al fresco dining, our South African friends really are the kings of the outdoor grill.

South African barbecues, known as braais, are renowned for having large quantities of tasty meat. The word, which comes from the Afrikaans language (braaivleis means grilled meat) is a verb too, so you can also braai meat.

But what’s the key element to any braai? No, not meat. It’s people. Braais are as much about the social side of things as the food. Gathering together friends and family to enjoy a relaxed meal is a crucial part of South African culture.

And of course, the perfect accompaniment to good food and good friends is a cool, refreshing beer.

Dining al fresco demands a thirst-quenching lager, which has the added benefit of balancing the texture and flavour of the marinated meat and spicy side dishes, as well as cleansing the palate. With this in mind, a cool lager or pale ale is best suited to sup alongside a braai – something like South Africa’s Castle Lager or Hansa Pilsener.

Two braai recipes to try this summer

Braais can vary depending on where you are in South Africa. In the Western Cape, a braai is more likely to include plenty of fresh fish, whereas in the real home of the braai – the Free State – a typical family braai will involve a wide range of meat.

Types of meat traditionally served include:

  • Boerewors – a pork and beef sausage, spiced with cloves, coriander seed, pepper, and nutmeg
  • Steaks – rump, sirloin and T-bone being the most popular, lightly seasoned and cooked to perfection
  • ‘Chicken flatties’ ­– whole spatchcocked chicken, basted with a lemon and herb or peri-peri marinade.
  • Lamb – a rack of lamb or some chops, again lightly seasoned, with a bit of rosemary added to the coals to get that scented smoke infusing the meat
  • Sosaties – skewers of lamb or mutton kebab

There are also popular side dishes, including:

  • Garlic bread – see below for a great beer, bacon and cheddar recipe
  • Mielies ­­– corn on the cob
  • Pap – a traditional maize based dish served with a spicy tomato and onion sauce
  • Potbrood – bread cooked in a cast-iron pot on the braai
  • Roosterkoek ­– balls of bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals
  • Spicy chakalaka tomato sauce

And don’t forget dessert. Those with a sweet tooth may find koeksisters (deep-fried, plaited dough served with a chilled syrup) or, if you are lucky, malva pudding (a sweet, apricot jam pudding) to enjoy afterwards.

So what are you waiting for? Get the beer cooling and plan your first braai now – you’ll never look back.