Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ben's Built-in Braai - Chapter 3


Attended by all those who helped plus spouses and kids, this was a great night and one to be remembered. For his architect (me), his builder (Rob), his South African neighbour on a spade (Riaan), his South African friend on a spade (Dean), wives, young'uns and Riaan's sister who was visiting from South Africa, Ben and Tersia put on a proper feast and celebration.

Oxfordshire's autumnal weather kicked off with a heavy rain shower before the guests arrived, but the night stayed respectfully still, cool and dry for the occasion.

We could smell the wood smoke and spices as we approached his house on foot. When we arrived the braai was in full flame and the potjie was simmering gently with just a few embers below it. A hardwood fire was blazing in the back corner of the braai to provide warmth for the guests and a supply of embers for the potjie and braii tool (grilling rack) when needed.

We blokes hung around by the new braai admiring the set-up and talked long and hard about our barbeqeing memories. I obtained an insight into the long and sophisticated tradition of cooking with fire in South Africa. This is so unlike Australia where as a child I was often horrified at how grown up friends and relatives could so easily destroy my food. Fortunately Australia's barbequing culture has moved on since the 70's. It will although never have, in my opinion, the depth of the South African tradition as it has always been a suburban pursuit rather than a rural one.

Given the number of guests and the age range (11 adults and 8 kids) Ben deliberated long and hard about the menu for the milestone event. For the first course he made chicken tandoori kebabs served with poppadoms, home-made raita and salsa plus a sweet chutney. Boerewors sausage was grilled for the kids so they could get on to watch TV and play games.

The main course was a slow cooked lamb curry, spiced rice, saag aloo and naan bread. For dessert Tersia produced a gorgeous white chocolate panna cotta.

Chunks of lamb on the bone were meltingly tender and the handful of garam masala thrown in ten minutes before serving was Ben's special trick to intensify an already wonderful taste and aroma.

Under no pressure at all (yeah right) Ben has so generously provided his recipes because basically I gave him no choice.

Get yourself a local architect and builder and you can have one all of your own. Go on, you know you want to.

Tandoori Recipe:


1 pint of live natural yogurt
1 Tablespoon Cumin powder
1 Tablespoon Garam Massala
1 Teaspoon Coriander powder
1 Teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 Teaspoon Chilli Powder
Juice 1 lemon
8 cloves garlic - crushed
1 inch grated ginger
Red food colouring
4 pieces of skinless chicken on the bone
1 Lemon


Mix the spices, colouring, lemon juice and garlic and ginger up into a paste with a little water and stir in well with the yoghurt. Marinate for 12 hrs. Shake off excess marinade and place chicken pieces on skewers. Braai for 10-15 minutes and check the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest piece with a skewer, if the juices run clear it's cooked, serve with a wedge of lemon.

Curry recipe:


2 kg of lamb stewing meat
Two tins of chopped tomato
3-4 Stems of finger length fresh ginger, peeled and grated.
5 cloves garlic chopped finely or crushed to paste
4 large onions sliced finely
4 large carrots chopped
4-5 medium potatoes cut in quarters
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cardommom seeds crushed
4-5 Star anis pods
1 Cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons Garam Masala
3 tablespoons of Mild Curry powder
1 tablespoon Turmeric
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Chilli powder to taste, half teaspoon for mild
Lamb stock 2-3 tomato tin full
Fresh Coriander for garnish
Chopped almonds if wanted for garnish


Brown meat in veg oil. Remove from pot. Brown onions with garlic ginger and all spices. Do not let it burn. Add meat and juices to onions and spices. Brown for a further few minutes and add tomatoes. Put two tomato tins full of stock in now as well. Cook slowly until meat is almost tender(1-1.5hrs). Add carrots and potatoes and add another tin of stock. If curry is to dry to your taste, add more stock. Season. Cook for another 30 min until potatoes are cooked. Take off heat for at least 25 minutes. Best to cook previous day. Garnish with Fresh Coriander and almonds.

Saag aloo recipe:


7-9 medium sized potatoes of your choice, cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
A few Cumin seeds and fennels seeds Teaspoon in total
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli/chilli powder (or more if you like it hot!)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
Fresh spinach, a good few hands full, dont cut
Water for boiling
Vegetable oil for Frying


Par boil the potatoes. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat then add the garlic and spices. Drain the potatoes once they are ready and put them in the pan as soon as the garlic begins to turn brown. Turn up heat. When the potatoes are brown, add the spinach and once the spinach has wilted, turn off the heat.

Tandoori Chicken on FoodistaTandoori Chicken


Alisa said...

your braai looks wonderful!I really want Foodista readers to find this post, I hope you could add thisTandoori widget at the end of this post. I really like what you made with this recipe. Thanks!

firefoodie said...

I'd be happy to. How did you find this post?

Gillie said...

Ben, dit lyk lekker !!! Looks really good and glad that your braaier is finished. Wondering what kind of wood you used?


Johan (Ben's BIL)

Alisa said...

Hi Ben, I found your blog while browsig the different blogs here in blogger.Thanks for adding the Foodista widget.

Anonymous said...

Very similar to old school Australian barbie in fact. Unlike your family ours and our friends BBQ grilled beautifully over Australian hardwood. Oh and we live in the country where it is and always has been a tradition.

firefoodie said...

I am envious of the Aussie who made the last comment as my experience is very different. On my various trips to Kenya and South Africa, the outdoor kitchen came almost as standard, regardless of social position. I've not seen much in suburban Australia that is so integrated, or a part of 'life' rather than 'life style'. I also spent a fair amount of time on farms in Oz in the 70s and 80s and the overriding food and cooking culture was definitely colonial English.

Anonymous said...

Live fire cooking is most definitely part of Australian country lifestyle
Whilst its true, as in other lands settled by the English, Colonial English cooking pays a part ie Sunday Roast. However, thats really one only one facet of Australian country culinary culture.
Drovers moving cattle across vast expanses of countryside for weeks and months on end only have one cooking medium available- fire, from wood.
As such food was and is cooked using a spit and camp ovens...over fire.
In relation to fire and bbq's, I would argue that in Australia, not only is it a lifestyle thing but it very much part of our life and an intrinsic part of our culture.
BBQ ownership is something like 90% here and people bbq 4 or more times a week using both gas and charcoal.
Personally, I have both a gas bbq and a Kamado style charcoal bbq for different styles ie grilling, roasting or smoking. If you have'nt tried bbq'ing with a kamado bbq, you really must try one. Once you do, your Weber will be under the house gathering dust in no time.
BTW- I love your blog!

firefoodie said...

Hi 'Anonymous', thanks so much for your informative and patriotic(!) response. I'm up for the kamado style bbq, I've been looking at them a while now. Unfortunately, here in the UK, there is no 'under the house' for forgotten icons! Just garages and lofts. I'm coming to Oz this Christmas (it's been 3 years) and can't wait to do some proper bush cooking. Watch this space.

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