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Saturday, 26 November 2016

Perfect Wood Fire Braai (Barbecue) Plan

Have you heard it said that you can't build a wood fire in your kettle braai? You can. And what is more, you can use this fire to prepare a complete menu. No doubt you will want to swap out some of the items on my menu for your own preferences, but I share some tips for preparing your whole meal on the fire in today's blog. I bake bread rolls, cook 3 different veggies, 2 types of meat, sausage and 2 whole chickens in a pot on one single fire. Want to know how to stretch your fire? Come braai with me in today's blog.


Before I even build the fire, I mix the dough for my bread/rolls and put this aside to rise. Then I start with the fire. When I build the fire, I start with 4 huge logs at the bottom. I place smaller twigs at the top. These will catch fire more quickly and eliminate the need for using fire lighters. The logs at the bottom is what gives my fire stamina. I then use empty egg boxes to light the fire. I don't treat them with anything. They light without any difficulty and burn long enough to light my smaller twigs. I am very fortunate to stay on a plot with lots of trees that are pruned annually. This is my source of wood. I don't swear by any particular wood, but use whatever is available. I do think that the the wood from thee fruit trees give the food an added flavour, but there is no scientific test to conduct to either prove or refute this theory of mine, so I can't swear to it.


Once the fire starts to subside and make coals, I put the lid of the kettle braai on to determine the temperature. It will probably be too hot to bake the bread. I sprinkle water on the logs to force the temperature down and once it reaches about 220 °C, I put my bread on. Rolls bake for 10-15 minutes on average, and loaves for roughly 40 minutes. It does vary from bread to bread, but that is the average. I place an empty oven dish between the bread pan and the fire to create a thicker bottom for my pan. I will share the recipe for these particular bread rolls in the next blog. These are made with my own recipe that I developed specifically for making boerewors rolls and the taste is a great accompaniment to the wors (sausage). I have shared more blogs about baking bread on the fire. Here are links to some of these blogs:

Baking A Pumpkin Bread With A Sourdough Starter In A Kettle Braai



Once the bread is baked, I rekindle the fire by feeding it with a few more smaller twigs. When the fire subsides to make coals, you will find that the temperature will once again have risen substantially. This is when I prepare the potatoes. I wash them properly and then rub salt all over the wet potatoes. The water allows the salt to stick to the potatoes.


The potatoes are then placed directly on the hot grill and the lid is closed. You are ideally looking for a temperature anywhere between 220-260 °C. In the oven, I bake these at 225 °C for 90 minutes. You may need less time on the kettle braai if your temperature is higher.


I then return to the kitchen to prepare the onions. I place a whole onion on a piece of foil, shiny side facing the onion. I put a cube of butter on top of each onion and salt and pepper to taste. You may also wish to add a dollop of garlic. As an alternative, you can prepare the potatoes in the exact same way, including the optional garlic. Another favourite with my family, that I did not make today, is half a butternut wrapped in foil. A cube of garlic, a tablespoon (12,5 ml) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) cinnamon is placed inside the hollow part of the pumpkin before it is wrapped in foil.


When wrapping the onions, bring the corners to the middle.


Now bring the remaining corners in, and wrap tightly.


By the time I return to the braai, the potatoes can be turned over. Keep the butter cubes at the top when you put the onions on the braai. This way all of that lovely flavour will melt into the onions, instead of dripping on your fire.


My absolute favourite veggie on the braai, is the sweet potato. Look for young and small sweet potatoes. Wash and scrub them thoroughly.


Place them on the braai as is. They do not need any salt, sugar, butter, or anything else. Even when they come off the braai, I do not add anything. They are simply delicious as is. Even the teenage boys in my life will eat them as is for a stolen snack on their way past the table. They are that good! They usually cook very quickly, although oddly enough, today they needed a bit of extra time.


The veggies are done when they give a little when you grab them with the tongs. That means they are soft and juicy on the inside. It is the perfect time to take them off the fire.


Check your temperature. If it has now dropped to around 120-160 °C, you can put the meat on. I left my T-bone steaks in a mixture of red wine vinegar and coke overnight to tenderize them. Do not salt them before putting them on the grill.


Seal one side and turn over.


Now salt with your favourite braai salt.


Turn them over again and salt the other side. Close the lid on the braai and put your salt away. That should be long enough to braai the meat. I had to keep mine on for longer as I have a couple of people who prefer well done steaks. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to meat. Point is, the kettle braai is really quick with meat. Do not leave it in there for too long.


Not my idea of the ideal steak, but I aim to please my guests. Note that the sausage and sweet potatoes have already come off the grill. Wors (sausage) can easily get too dry if you over-cook it.


I then put the pork steaks on the grill. No salt is added before the meat is sealed.


Salt both sides once the meat is seared/sealed. Pork is ready in no time. Close the lid and hurry to put the salt away. I trim the crackling off the chops and leave that on the fire a little longer.


I wanted to show you the veggies once opened. The potatoes get a bit of butter and ground black pepper. The sweet potatoes and onion does not need anything to be added.


I live in Gauteng where no barbecue is complete without putupap and tomato and onion relish. The pap cooked on the stove for 3-4 hours on a very slow heat.


Once all the food was done, the coals started heating up again as the hard inner parts of the logs started turning to coals. If this does not happen automatically, you can force the heat up again by adding a few twigs. I waited for the heat to reach temperatures above 200 °C and then put my pot with the chickens on the grill. I closed the lid and went inside to enjoy my meal. These chickens will be perfect for tomorrow's dinner. There is more than enough food for today. I simply left the chicken on the grill, only checking the temperature from time to time. Roughly 2 1/2 hours later, the temperature dwindled to 120 °C. This was when I removed the chicken, as salmonella thrives in temperatures between 60-120 °C. Never leave chicken at those temperatures. The chicken was cooked through and falling off the bone. I will share the recipe for this chicken in the blog following the one for the bread rolls.
And that is how you stretch a fire.


Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy the books here:
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