Vacation Time – South Africa

Hi guys! I’m on vacation! Come with me to a South African Braais.

I’m travelling in South Africa and even though I’m on holiday, the first thing I look at in a new country is the food. Once a chef always a chef I guess! And I’ve got some great recipes to share with you.

South Africa is, of course, in the Southern Hemisphere, so it has its seasons all back to front – while it’s summer in the States, here it is winter. The landscape outside Cape Town is still dry and brown from the hot summer and they are waiting for the winter rains to turn it all green again. Though summer is over and the nights are cool there is still sunshine and I’ve had a couple of fantastic braais with friends here.

A braai is the South African name for our barbeque and braais are a big summertime social thing here – when friends come round people entertain in their gardens, or go to the beach together, cooking over a wood fire. Meat is the focus of a braai: coils of boerewors (a spiced beef and pork sausage, which is made in at least fifty different varieties here), chicken wings covered in hot spice sauce, marinaded lamb chops, steaks and, if you’re by the ocean and have been fishing and got lucky, fish. All these are cooked on the grid over glowing wood embers, but very often there’ll be a foil packet sitting right on the embers, being turned every so often and this foil packet usually is filled with vegetables.

I helped my friends prepare the food for their braai before going out to sit round the fire, so here is the recipe for my favorite South African vegetable cooked in one of these foil packets:

Butternut Squash baked in foil on a wood fire

1 medium butternut squash (this also works with pumpkin and other squashes)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper
heavy duty aluminium foil

Peel the butternut, take out the seeds and cut it into cubes or slices about ½ inch thick. (This should be done by an adult as the squash is not easy to peel – but you will enjoy taking out the seeds)! Prepare the aluminium foil. It’s best to have a double layer so that it doesn’t tear when it’s on the fire, so tear off a good length (at least 3 feet) fold it in two and then rub butter over the central area. Put the cubed butternut in, sprinkle it with the cinnamon, a good grinding of salt and pepper, then dot some more butter on top. Fold the foil over the butternut to make a loose parcel, with the sides double-folded to seal it well.

When the fire has burned down to glowing embers arrange the foil parcel on some embers at the edge of the fire and turn it carefully every five minutes. It should take 20 to 30 minutes depending on the heat of the coals. Open the parcel very carefully as it will be very hot and a rush of steam from the cooked buttenut will come out as soon as you open it. The butternut will be tender and slightly caramelized at the edges (probably burnt in a few places though still delicious!)

You can make all sorts of veggie packs this way – sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, green beans with whatever herbs and spices you like. Potatoes cooked with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary make a great combination. With most of them you can use olive oil instead of butter, it’s just butternut that really does need the luxury and lusciousness of butter to bring out the best of it.

These veggie packs make great ways to feed vegetarian friends at a barbeque, too, and are a healthy addition to all that meat!

I’ve collected a few dessert recipes along the way too which I’ll share with you next time.

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