Jan Braai, the Man Behind National Braai Day! He Shares Tips & Recipes

Apr 2 2015

This month Latest Sightings caught up with Jan Braai, the man behind South Africa’s “National Braai Day”. Evidently it happens to coincide with our “National Heritage Day” - and coupled they have become a day of celebration when the entire nation unites around their respective fire. He chats to us about braaing, quick & easy recipes (especially if you are on a bush safari), and the man himself behind the day!

Q: Can you please tell me Jan, where did the name Jan Braai originate from?
A: Jan is my real name and in 2010 when Twitter took off in South Africa I chose @janbraai as my Twitter handle. Soon people started to refer to me as Jan Braai, which was not initially my intention but the name was quite catchy and it stayed.

Q: How would you describe your personality?
A: Like a Lion. I like to eat meat and I like to take naps in the shade of a tree!

Q: In your view what makes “the” perfect braai?
A: Definitely the gathering of people around a fire.

Q: On that same note what do you consider breaks a braai?
A: I do not see the point of using gas as the fuel for your braai. Charcoal is acceptable in emergencies, but “gas” is the Afrikaans word for a guest at your braai, not something you should braai with. For me it’s all about wood!

Q: And what is your perfect drink to accompany a braai?
A: Generally I start off with a gin and tonic as it does a good job in keeping the mosquitos at bay. Thereafter, I definitely steer towards wine or beer. Now and again I also enjoy a brandy and coke or even a rum and coke.

Q: Bush braai or beach braai?
A: That is like having to choose between your children. The great thing about a bush braai is the view and the atmosphere. The great thing about a beach braai is the view and the atmosphere…

Q: What is your favourite ingredient to braai?
A: The one thing you cannot braai without is salt. I like course untreated sea salt. In terms of meats, I like lamb loin chops, T-bone steaks, pork neck chops, whole flat chickens, snoek, yellowtails, prawns and a few others. In terms of potjiekos I like lamb shank, chicken curry and oxtail.

Q: What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when braaing?
People over-braai their meat. I believe that it is the single thing that 9/10 people of all ages, both sexes and in all parts of South Africa do wrong!


Braaid Monkeygland Steak

•    500 gram rump steak
•    200ml Steers monkey gland sauce
•    2 crushed cloves of garlic
•    3 tablespoons tomato sauce
•    2 teaspoons olive oil
•    Seasoning (salt & pepper)

1.    Mix all the ingredients together.
2.    Add cuts of meat.
3.    Gently massage the marinade into meat.
4.    Leave in fridge for at least 3 hours (The longer you leave it in, the more tender it will be).

Braaied Brinjal Steak

Allow roughly ½ large brinjal per person.
Wash and slice lengthways into about 1cm slices.

•    1/3 cup cider vinegar
•    1/3 cup white vinegar
•    1/3 cup olive oil
•    1/3 cup fresh coriander, chopped
•    6 cloves garlic, minced
•    Juice of 1 lime or small lemon
•    2 tablespoons ground cumin
•    1 tablespoon ground cumin
•    1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
•    1 tablespoon dried oregano
•    1 teaspoon fine ground Himalayan salt

1.    Combine all ingredients and mix well.
2.    This marinade works best if it is made a day in advance so the flavours can blend.
3.    Marinate brinjal slices for no more than a few minutes.
4.    Drain and braai, basting as you go.
5.    Serve with braaied red and yellow peppers, alongside your favourite bread and salads.

Q: What is your favourite memory of a braai?
A: It is surely the few times I have been fortunate and lucky enough to braai with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the patron saint of National Braai Day.

Q: What is your most important piece of braai equipment?
A: You need a grid and you need tongs!
 Everything else is optional. I like stainless steel grids as they last longer and I like those old school tongs with the wooden handles as they work well for handling small logs, coals and meat. On a more advanced level, a digital food/meat thermometer that shows you the internal temperature of the meat is the best investment that any person can make to improve their braaing. It retails for about R150.

Q: Do you make salads? Or is that for the ladies… 
A: Yes, I do make salads but I also never complain if another person volunteers to take that task up. I am not really into this stereotyping of men around the fire, women in the kitchen rubbish.

Q: What would you suggest are the ‘Big 3’ salads to accompany any braai?
A: The big three are a good potato salad, curry pasta salad and a proper Greek salad.

Q: Is it all braai? Or are there any other cooking styles that you enjoy…
A: No, it is not all about braai. I enjoy potjiekos and stews, pizzas in my “man-oven” and then my new gadget is an ice-cream churner. For the past year I have been making mouth-watering ice-creams at home. I think my cinnamon, oreo and snickers flavoured ice-creams are the best ever-made!

Q: What do you enjoy doing, when you are not braaing?
A: I love sports: cycling, trail running, surfing and paddling, and then reading and sleeping. Reading generally on my Kindle but I just lost the 3rd one, so back to paperback at the moment. Sleeping is such a luxury and it is for free.

Q: Do you watch cooking shows? If so which ones? If not, why not?
A: Not really. I rather spend the time cooking, participating in sport, reading a book, or of course sleeping.

Braai = barbecue (It is technically different from barbecuing in that the wood fire is fed for several hours and then allowed to burn down. The food is then cooked over the red-hot embers.)
Potjiekos = a stew prepared outdoors in a cast iron, 3 legged pot
Brinjals = aubergine or eggplant
Lekker = Good

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