Any South African will tell you, we don’t need an excuse to braai; after all, it’s part of our heritage. The anticipation of balmy summer evenings and yearend holidays just add to the enjoyment.
Like all other good things, a braai can become boring if there is no variety and a good way to achieve this is to add herbs. Herbs can be used in rubs, marinades or butter for the meat, in vegetable or salad side dishes, in salad dressings, and even added to the coals for a delicious aroma.
Ideal braai-mates: Meat is always the star of a braai and a simple rule when using herbs is to match them with the meat as you would in conventional cooking. Here are some combinations:
- Chicken: Rosemary, basil, parsley, savoury, French tarragon
- Lamb: Rosemary, garlic, ginger, mint, lemon balm, thyme
- Pork: Basil, coriander, chervil, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme
- Steak: Garlic, ginger, horseradish, mint, chives, parsley, thyme
- Fish: Lemon balm, lemon grass, fennel, dill, parsley, rocket, French tarragon
One of the nicest ways to enjoy herbs with meat is to simply make herb butter that is served with a sizzling chop or steak.
1/2 cup unsalted, softened butter
1/4 cup mixed herbs, finely chopped (basil, chives, dill, parsley, thyme or tarragon)
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients until the herbs are well combined with the butter. Pack into a ramekin and cover with cling wrap or place on waxed paper and shape the butter into a cylinder. Wrap and seal the ends. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, until firm. Herb butter can be stored in the fridge for about two weeks or in the freezer for a few months.
The Perfect Braai Sauce
Chimichurri is a tangy, brightly coloured sauce from Argentina that is served with all their grilled meat. It consists of herbs, garlic and vinegar. Make it the day before your braai to allow the flavours to mature.
2 packed cups fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 packed cup fresh oregano leaves (or 4 tsp. dried oregano)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Finely chop the parsley, garlic and oregano in a food processor, and add the vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Once all the ingredients are finely chopped, add the oil in a steady stream while blending. Pulse a few times to combine everything. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to one day before serving. Before serving, stir and season as needed. The chimichurri will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Spicy Herb Rubs
Purists like their meat unadorned, but there is merit in using a rub to tenderise or flavour the meat. Try the following:
- In a small spice or coffee grinder, coarsely grind black peppercorns, white peppercorns, fennel seeds, dried thyme and lavender flowers. Rub this mixture all over the meat. Wrap the meat tightly in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
- For a tasty chicken rub, combine garlic, salt, coarse black pepper and dried or fresh marjoram. Rub this into the chicken and then leave it for a few hours or overnight before grilling. Also try different herbs and spices such as rosemary, cumin and chilli, as well as other flavourings such as honey, olive oil and mustard. When making dried mixtures, add 1/2 teaspoon of herb salt and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.
Recipe supplied by: Tanya Visser. Images: Pixabay