Braai the Beloved Country by Jean Nel Reviewed by Nikki Swanepoel I n the introduction to this book, Heritage Day (24 September) is acknowledged as National Braai Day. This touchy point has been publicly debated ad nauseam (hmm, not a good word to kick off a review on a book about good food with). Serious traditionalist are angered by the “braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and any-kind-of-bakkie” supporters and accuse them of hijacking a day which should be dedicated to serious political introspection. Publisher Jacana’s choice of title may arguably also be seen as facetious to the point of being politically incorrect. However, Jean Nel launches into his recipes with a carefree gusto that will most likely have most but the sourest of critics forgiving him gladly. Certainly, Jean has a point – most people in South Africa enjoy a good braai. Even vegans enjoy the primal satisfaction of preparing food over coals. Divided into different sections, depending on method of fire (open flames, direct/indirect cooking on/ away from the coals) and main or side dishes (some of the latter prepared away from the fire), the book begins with a short introduction about preparing the fire, and ends with some handy tips, notes on braai tools, kitchen basics and maintenance of equipment. A nifty index allows easy reference. While several exotic recipes tempt, many are quintessentially ‘Souf African’, and there are some with a twist. The more traditional recipes include west coast snoek glazed with apricot jam, roosterkoek (to be eaten with fresh farm butter, homemade apricot jam and grated cheddar cheese – droooool!) and a recipe for Bo-Kaap tomato relish. More creative alternatives include venison loin with moskonfyt, ostrich burger, pork belly with apricot jam glaze and a brandy and Coke sirloin. Coca-Cola is also an ingredient in Jean’s tangy sweet basting sauce. (As kids in the late sixties we were thrilled when my mom was deemed ‘revolutionary’ when she introduced leg of pork roasted in Coke to the traditional Sunday lunch spread.) For a more adventurous recipe try roasting a whole turkey in a kettle braai (you have a long time to practise for next Christmas!). Booze flows with abundance – chorizo sausages and Spanish beef fillets are doused with sherry, boozy beer and balsamic vinegar drenches glazed onions, a chicken is spread-eagled over a beer can, of course where there’s beer there must be beer bread, also a cheese and onion cider bread, and sparkling rosé tarts up a redcurrant sauce for the roast pork loin.