How to make and enjoy a traditional South African ‘braaivleis’ – courtesy of Waterland

Call it a braai, barbi, barbecue, cook out or simply fire grilled meat but if you haven’t smelt the delicious flavours of boerewors and Karoo lamb chops wafting on the summer breeze and tantalising your taste buds then you are in for a real South African treat ala Waterland hospitality.

When visiting South Africa, making or just enjoying a traditional braaivleis is almost mandatory. The fact that it is also an easy, relaxing and an enjoyable way to eat which makes the most of our summery evenings set against the Cape’s scenic mountain slopes adds to the experience. Enjoy our warm South African hospitality that goes right along with the social pastime of braaing and you couldn’t have found a better place to familiarise yourself with the braai experience than at Waterland Lodge.

It’s all in the preparation

Preparing the fire to produce the necessary even-burning coals is the first step in the culinary art of the braaivleis and the type of wood you use is important. You don’t want a fire that is too smoky or which burns too quickly. At Waterland, we like to use hard wood, which is determined by how dense the wood is, enabling it to burn hotter for longer – this can generally be established by the heavier weight of the wood.

A selection of high quality South African red meat cuts, boerewors, chicken, sosaties, local seafoods and vegetable variations all develop well on the braai as the hot grill is licked by the flames, bringing out the smoky taste and developing the flavours whilst it cooks. You can also add additional flavours by marinating and seasoning by adding a variety of prepared spices.

Quality and origin

There are two other factors that play a role in the flavour of the meat: the fat and the age of the animal and each animal carries its own unique fat content, which varies from cut to cut. Muscles that are used most by the animal contain the least amounts of fat. Age also plays an important role in flavour development with the older the animal, the more fat build up.

Beef in class

In South Africa we have a meat classification used as a mark of quality according to age, fat cover and carcass composition. Both grade and fat, along with abattoirs registered identity number, are stamped into all carcasses with its food grade approved ink. If you want to buy your meat with confidence, insist on any of the roller marks according to your choice and preference of beef in the table below. The following are characteristics of meat classification in South Africa:

  • AAA in purple means the meat is from a young animal and is the most tender.
  • ABA in green means that the meat is from a young animal in transition to an adult animal and the meat is reasonably tender.
  • BBB in brown means that the meat is from an adult animal and is less tender but with plenty of flavour.
  • CCC in red means that the meat is from an adult animal and is the least tender but perfect for stews.

Fat classes are also classified so you can choose the level of fattiness you desire:

  • 000 means there is no visible fat on the carcass
  • 111 means it is a very lean carcass
  • 222 is a lean carcass
  • 333 is a medium fat carcass and,
  • 444 is a fat carcass
  • 555 is an over-fat carcass and,
  • 666 is an excessively fat carcass.

Distinctive South African lamb

South African lamb is rich in high-quality protein, heme iron (the most bio-available form of iron), and B-vitamins, which are often lacking in modern diets. The term Karoo lamb describes the grazing regions of the Karoo or Free State which carry their own unique flavours. This is because the animals graze on the hardy, indigenous plants found yearround in these dry, arid regions.

Karoo lamb comes from South Africa’s Northern Cape province and you will need to look for the following certifications in any of the local supermarkets: Certified Karoo Meat of Origin; Checkers Certified Natural Lamb; Gesogte Laingsburg Karoo Lamb; Famous Laingsburg Karoo Lamb; HHB Free Range; Karoo Naturally Free; Pick ’n Pay Free Range; Woolworths Free Range; Fresh by Nature; Cavalier Grassfed Lamb; SAFAM (South African Farm Assured Meat).

Bounty of the seas

When looking to enjoy a whole fish on the braai, another favourite enjoyed by South Africans, it is important to consider a species’ ‘protection status’. This is provided by the World Wildlife Fund’s South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) which works to shift consumer demand away from over-exploited species to more sustainable options. On the green list for sustainability you can choose the following fish species: Dorado, Hake, Yellowfin tuna, Yellowtail (line fished only), Monkfish and Snoek, a Cape favourite. If you are really feeling adventurous try traditional snack favourites such as bokkums a salted dried fish hailing from the West Coast or a Cape Malay-style pickled fish.

Waterland is happy to source any of the above meat for you, alternatively we can direct you to our favourite butchers, fisheries and delicatessens so you can make your own selection.

Salad varieties on the side

Every braaivlies always features a selection of potato salads, coleslaw, marinated beetroot or a combination of salad greens. With abundant vegetable gardens at Waterland, we invite you to collect your own bunch of freshly-picked greens, sun-ripened tomatoes and herbs fresh from the soil to enjoy on your table.

Wine and craft beers

As the sun sets and the coals begin to glow, it’s the perfect time to unwind around the fire after a busy day of sightseeing or sun-soaked beach activities. That fact that our evenings are so long makes it even more enjoyable especially with a glass of local Cape reds or white wine, or a local craft beer to celebrate the completion of yet another perfect day in the Cape.

Waterland tradition

Having learnt the time honoured tradition of braaing from my father, I enjoy nothing better than sharing this fine art of both culinary and social activity and would delight in personally showing you how to master the technique of cooking succulent, juicy, sizzling meats with all the flavour and spices that makes braaivleis so delicious, or alternatively cooking your meat selection of choice on your behalf.

Just to reinforce how important a braai is in South Africa, we have made a National Braai Day to honour this national pastime and it falls on the same day as National Heritage Day on the 24th September. This is because so many South Africans consider the braai to be sacrosanct to the South African way of outdoor, easy living and just about anyone will jump at the opportunity to show off our special skills which combine sausage making talents from Europe, a combination of spices from the East and our high-quality, organic South African meats.

Welcome to braai country! We invite you to enjoy a braaivleis with us! Speak to me about your braai preferences on C: +27 826021005.

Words to know

  • Braaivles: outdoor fire-grilled meat
  • Boerewors: Farmer’s sausage
  • Sosati: meat pieces skewered on a stick where Cape tradition offers parings with meat, fruit and spices
  • Pap en sous: mielie meal served with a tangy sauce on the side
  • Lekker: Afrikaans word for nice