Unique South African taste with Bertus Basson
Chef and restaurant owner Bertus Basson recently published his first book, Homegrown – a celebration of being South African filled with mouth-watering pages of food to inspire us to stoke up the fi res. While his food philosophy is rooted in traditional South African food culture, he spins his own modern outlook on the recipes, and his commitment to great food made with fresh, local ingredients, along with attention to detail, is the key to his culinary success. He has also been a host and judge on The Ultimate Braai Master and Brood and Botter, has expanded the number of his popular restaurants, and has his own range of condiments. As a food entrepreneur, Bertus shares with us some of the delectable braai recipes from his book.
I never really thought much about soutribbetjie. It’s a very traditional dish for sheep-farming communities of the Karoo. However, for a family that got its lamb and most other meat from the supermarket, lamb ribs weren’t a thing. Like a lot of the things I now enjoy, I was introduced to the glory of soutribbetjie from a completely unexpected source. On Ultimate Braaimaster, one of the teams cooked a soutribbetjie for us to judge. It didn’t look like much, but it blew my socks off . It was a recipe that gives glory to the ingredient. All you need is a rack of real Karoo lamb ribs and some salt. The awesome flavour of that lamb just shines through and leaves you sucking your fingers looking for more. The perfect soutribbetjie is a combination of herbaceous Karoo lamb, moist flesh and crisp skin, with just the right amount of fat to trickle down your chin. We cook this on the braai at home as often as we can get our hands on good-quality lamb rib. Soutribbetjie needs four simple ingredients to make it great: salt, whole lamb rib, slow coals and time. Ask your butcher to cut a whole lamb rib, including the belly and the ‘lies’.
1 rack lamb ribs
1 cup coarse salt
- Place the ribs on a board and crack down the middle with a cleaver to flatten them. I’m sure your butcher will oblige. With a sharp little knife, score the fat all over as much as possible. This will help with salting and rendering the fat.Rub all over with the salt, getting it into every nook and cranny.
- Secure the rib in a folding grid and hang it in a cool, dry place for at least 2 hours before cooking. The longer the better.
- Make a hardwood fire with a lot of coals for long, slow cooking. This is a slow cook, and you need to turn the rib often to render out the fat. It’s quite a skill, because you need to retain an even heat in the coals for an hour.
- You can’t cook the rib too close to the coals either, as any rendered fat will fl are into fl ames and burn your rib before it is cooked. I keep a second fire going and top up as I go.
- This is a good braai dish for a long, lazy afternoon.
Chip ’n Dip
There’s this thing all my friends and family used to do at gatherings when I was growing up. It’s a tradition that’s alive and well in certain middle-class boere families today too. Whenever you went to a braai, or a get-together where you’re told to bring-your-own, someone in the crowd would stop at the local café for chip ’n dip. It would usually be a packet of Simba Chipniks and a tub of smooth cottage cheese with chives. Some enterprising individual might also get a packet of dried Royco French Onion soup to stir into the cottage cheese for a ‘fancy’ dip. Those were the days. Back when it was ‘the done thing’, it seemed pretty reasonable to me. But looking back, it was quite a careless response either to the welcome of your host or the hosting of your guest. A bag of chips and a punnet of smooth cottage cheese is hardly a blip on the radar of making an effort to enjoy good company. It’s kind of funny to me, and is probably the reason my version of chip ’n dip takes so much time and effort. I love doing stuff like this smoked aubergine dip to share with friends or family in the course of a lekker kuier or visit.
2 – 3 medium aubergines, sliced in half
200g fromage blanc
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
150ml olive oil
Halve the aubergines and cut a grid pattern into the flesh, being careful not to pierce the skin if possible. Place them in a fireproof dish, press slivers of garlic into the cuts, then drizzle with the olive oil and salt. Get your smoker ready and smoke the aubergine at 130°C for an hour, or until the aubergines are cooked through and tender. Reserve the pan juices, and scoop the aubergine flesh out into the bowl of a food processor. Add the fromage blanc, pan juices, lemon zest and juice, and whiz to form a nice coarse dip. Correct the seasoning and serve with your favourite vegetable chips.
Serves 6 to 8