No doubt, the meat component of your braai is sorted. We tend to spend more time thinking about the protein and then simply toss together a green salad with some toppings for a side dish. Hopefully our braai side dishes will inspire a little more creativity. Your non-meat loving vegetarian/pescatarian friends will thank you too.
DALE’S SUPERLICIOUS CAESAR SALAD
This simple recipe is all about the dressing and using the freshest ingredients. Dale knows his way around a kitchen having been co-owner of the award-winning Yum restaurant in Johannesburg. Whenever we have a braai, I ask him to make his Caesar salad which I smash before anything else. I managed to get him to share his recipe with me.
Ingredients: Serves 4-6
1 loaf of Ciabatta (about 250g) for croutons
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil (Dale likes using a quality avocado oil)
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
Quality sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
3 medium sized super fresh and crispy cos or romaine lettuce
Optional extra (not pictured): 12 thin slices of pancetta, crisped for serving
Make your croutons
Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Tear your ciabatta into 2 ½ cm pieces (you need at least 3 cups). Tearing the bread makes ragged edges that catch the dressing and add texture to the salad. Toss the bread with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake your croutons in your preheated oven, tossing occasionally until golden. Keep an eye on them though. I’ve burnt a couple of trays of croutons in my lifetime.
Make the dressing
Chop the anchovy fillets, garlic clove and then add a pinch of salt and use the side of a knife to mash into a paste.
Scrape into a medium sized bowl. Add the eggs, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the olive oil drop by drop.
Then whisk in the vegetable oil in a similar manner until the dressing is thick and glossy, being careful not to split the dressing.
Whisk in the grated Parmesan, season with salt and ground pepper and more lemon juice to your taste.
The dressing can be made a day in advance.
Assemble the salad
Assembly should only be done just before eating to ensure everything maintains its crispness. The whole lettuce leaves provide the ideal mix of surface area and crispness. Gently toss the lettuce leaves, croutons and dressing together. You want the leaves nicely coated with dressing but not drowning in it. Top with Parmesan shavings and crisp pancetta if using. Enjoy immediately.
EASY-PEASY CAPRESE INSPIRED PASTA SALAD
This was inspired by a hangover and the need to put something together in a flash for a braai we were having at home with some friends. Craving the unctuousness of fresh mozzarella in a caprese together with the satisfying carbs of a pasta, I tossed this crowd-pleaser together. It’s so wonderfully colourful and for added convenience, its served at room temperature.
Ingredients: Serves 8-10 people
250g Packet farfalle (my preference) or fusilli pasta
Juice of ½ lemon
125g Fresh basil pesto
300g Proper mozzarella or bocconcini, torn into 2½ cm pieces
2 Ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and diced
180g Baby plum/rosa or other small tomatoes bursting with flavour, halved
100g Raw pine nuts, lightly toasted in a pan
Optional extra: Kalamata olives, pitted, halved
To serve: Fresh basil (leaves) chiffonade
Boil your pasta according to packet instructions. Do NOT overcook your pasta. You want it al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water, pour the lemon juice over the cooked pasta plus a drizzle of olive oil, mix and leave to cool.
When your pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the pesto and mix in thoroughly. Then add the mozzarella, avo, tomatoes and pine-nuts and gently mix together (add olives as well if using). Garnish with the basil chiffonade to serve.
BRAAI CORN ON THE COB WITH TOPPINGS
I had my first Mexican street style corn on the cob with interesting topping on a trip to New York City. I was hooked. I love mealies on the braai simply done with lashings of butter, salt and pepper but the addition of interesting toppings takes this favourite to the next level. And it’s a little more “sophisticated” for when entertaining guests.
At least 1 whole mealie per person! Prep them for your braai by steaming or boiling in salted water for 10-15 minutes depending on how crunchy you like your mealies.
½ cup mayonnaise
1½ cups sour cream
¼ cup freshly chopped coriander + a little more for serving
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 lime, juiced
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 limes cut into wedges, for garnish
Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and coriander together in a small bowl. When the mealies are done on the BBQ, remove and slather with the mayonnaise mix. Squeeze the lime juice over the top and generously season with parmesan and the cayenne pepper. Top with a little fresh coriander for serving.
Chorizo with crème fraiche – topping for 4 mealies
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
180ml crème fraiche
Small handful of fresh basil or marjoram leaves to serve
Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to crisp a little, releasing its beautiful oil. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Don’t burn the garlic. It turns bitter when burnt and you’ll have to start again. Allow to cool a little then blend in a food processor until the chorizo/garlic mixture resembles a course breadcrumb.
When the mealies are done on the BBQ, spread the crème fraiche on each mealie and top with the chorizo crumb and some fresh basil or marjoram leaves.
These are just a couple of ideas. Try coming up with your own topping (how about, sour cream with chives, bacon bits and cheddar) or even just flavoured butters. Try sundried tomato pesto butter or a traditional Café de Paris butter which will also be amazing on your steaks hot off the braai.
SUNDRIED TOMATO & CARAMELISED ONION PITA BRAAIBROODJIES
There is nothing yummier than a gooey, cheesy, smoky toasted sandwich on the braai. The trick for me with a “braaibroodjie” is to keep the filling relatively simple and not to overfill. Your cheese must be able to melt properly without burning the outside.
I’ve opted for a simple recipe using pita’s for a less “bready” take on the traditional recipe. They also crisp quite nicely.
Ingredients: Makes 6
Pack of 6 pita breads: White or wholewheat
120ml Sundried tomato pesto plus more for dipping into.
250g Cheese: You want an easy melting cheese that goes nice and stringy when heated. Try a nice gruyere, manchego or provolone, sliced.
2 Cups caramelised onions (Find a recipe here – the sugar is optional. I find the onions sweeten nicely on their own with enough balsamic vinegar)
200g Fresh avocado guacamole
Cut the pita breads in half (so you have 2 circles as pictured above). If you can manage it, try not to cut all the way through so that one side is still attached. Generously smear the sundried tomato pesto on the inside of both sides of the pita. Place a sufficiently generous layer of cheese on one side. Don’t extend beyond about 1cm in from the edge of the pita. Top with caramelized onions. Put the other half of the pita on top. Tie with some kitchen string to keep them together.
Prep your braai sandwich grid by spraying generously with non-stick cooking spray. Place your pita’s on your grid, close and you’re ready to braai. Make sure to not place the sandwiches over direct flames because you’ll simply end up burning the outside of the breads without giving the cheese a chance to melt.
Serve with more of the pesto and the avocado guacamole on the side.