What is your heritage? What makes you South African and what makes you miss home when you’re away? When I lived in Atlanta and was in love with so much that was American, what I missed, what ached deep inside me like only longing can, was the Highveld thunderstorms of my childhood. The hot, lazy days waiting quietly for the drama of thunder and lightning and the quenching, cleansing rain. Even today, nothing beats that smell. Apparently there is a name for that mysterious thing, the smell of rain on dry earth – petrichor. It is defined as “the distinctive scent which accompanies the first rain after a long warm dry spell”- so, Joburg days in the summer time! There is something wonderfully evocative about it, everywhere has its own smell I guess: the Karoo smells like those bossies, Tulbagh smells of fynbos and wine, and Sabie smells of pine needles. But my magic petrichor happens on the Highveld, that was what I missed, that and the wild, unfettered drama of the regular storms of summer. And the smell of a braai. Not a barbeque. A braai that’s been made which charcoal or briquettes… or hardehout if you’re really lucky. Something that smells of veld, wild and African. It is not the same cooking food outside on a gas braai. It’s great and fun and convenient and delicious… but not the same. Few things say South Africa as strongly as the braai. National Heritage day has even been officially renamed as Braai4Heritage day, and our Archbishop Desmond Tutu affirms it as a ‘unifying force in a divided country.’ Like many Joburgers I think, we are getting out of town this long weekend to go enjoy some time out with our kids and special friends. We will braai, but we’ll also fish and enjoy leisurely breakfasts and playful picnics and go for walks and play boardgames and drink some wine and maybe some craft beer and if we’re really lucky catch a little kip on the couch. Because that is what people do when they relax. When they live well and when they’re with people they love. Well, our sort of people anyway. And that is really the heritage I want to live and leave to my children – life well lived and enjoyed in this wonderful country where we can be outside and run and play while the African sun shines on our backs, until we run for shelter or the nearest puddle when the thunderstorm strikes! So whatever you consider your heritage, I hope you enjoy it this long weekend. I hope you have time to congregate with people you love and who make you laugh and who make you feel safe. I hope you eat well and live well.
Here are a few ideas of delicious things to make with whatever you choose to eat this weekend. The key here is ease and relaxation, nothing too technical or time consuming.
2 egg yolks 2tsp lemon juice
1tsp mustard/mustard powder big pinch of salt
1½tsp white wine vinegar 1 cup grapeseed oil
25ml or so oil of your choice -walnut, hazelnut, macadamia or extra-virgin olive oil
Place egg yolks, mustard, salt, vinegar and/or lemon juice in bowl and beat (I use an electric whisk,) until pale and thickened. Add the grapeseed oil (or other,) a little at a time, very slowly, beating vigorously. Take care not to add too much oil and beat too little as the emulsion could split. After the mixture starts to thicken you can add the oil quicker. You may not need to use all the oil, once the consistency is close to that you want, add the flavouring oil and mix until thick and glossy. If you want a thinner consistency, add a little water. Voila! Add some pulverised garlic for an aioli or any other tinkerings you like.
Use this to make a delicious potato salad. Boil some baby potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and allow to dry and cool a little before stirring in the mayonnaise and some herbs and additions of your choice. Delicious simplicity.
Carrot salad (of sorts):
Grate some sweet carrots into a bowl. Melt a tablespoon of coconut butter, more depending on how many carrots you have. When you are ready to serve, pour the hot, melted oil over the carrots and toss until all is thoroughly coated. That’s it. Maybe with some Maldon salt sprinkled over. Sounds strange, I know, but it’s lovely. The nuttiness of the oil goes beautifully with the sweetness of the carrots. None of the raisins and orange juice our grannies used to use. This is super nutritious and our girls devour it by the bowl-full!
Sorrel is one of the greens that is quintessential to Spring, though ours grows all year round. It can be used as either herb, salad leaf or vegetable. It is fresh and lemony in taste, wonderful to clean out those cobwebs of winter. We love it chopped up with some spinach, wilted in a little oil and served with eggs of almost any description. It is light and refreshing finely and sparingly shredded in a salad, also in a potato salad. My favourite way of eating it is as a buttery sauce with a rich, fatty fish like salmon. Take a big handful of sorrel, a 100 grams or so, rinse well, roll into a cigar and finely slice. Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a pan and add the sorrel. It will turn into a puree of sorts, it will also turn brownish, but its taste will endure. Season with salt & pepper and serve with some seared salmon or whatever fish you put on the braai. Some people stir in a little crème fraiche, but I love it just like that. It cuts through really fatty and heavy flavours wonderfully.
So, gather however you choose, light a fire if you wish. Enjoy!