Train smash and mealiepap: A bit on the side, Part 1

Well, as promised in my recent post on stuffed beef fillet on the braai for IMBB6, I have put together a few authentically South African side dishes for a braai or barbecue. As I mentioned in the original post, braais have come a long way since the days of our forefathers and today you are as likely to find rocket and parmesan salad, caprese, focaccia, vegetable kebabs or couscous served as side dishes at a braai. However, there are some side dishes that are rooted in your childhood memories of braais – dishes which produce puzzled looks when we longingly describe them to Londoners at barbecues and suspicious examination if we actually get round to making them! These are the dishes I thought I’d share with you. Of course, there are the run-of-the-mill things like a green salad, a potato salad or sliced bread, but these are familiar & I won’t spend more time on them. Instead I will share with you the joys of pap & train smash, roosterkoekies and braai sarmies.

For today, let’s look at pap & train smash. OK, don’t panic, this has nothing to do with the consequences of the deteriorating British rail network ;-). Train smash to a South African is a savoury sauce/stew made predominantly of tomatoes and onions. (I believe the name has military origins, where it can be any dish that’s red because of tomatoes, or a dish thrown together out of leftover rations. I have also found Australian references to the term, but these seem to refer more a type of meal as opposed to a single dish.) The tomatoes and onions are boiled together with seasonings and water and thickened with cornstarch to form a satisfying relish to be used at a braai. I must admit that in SA, I never make my own – why bother when every supermarket sells a variety of canned versions, usually called tomato & onion mix or braai relish, which can be spiced up to your personal taste! Check out the All Gold website – 4th product under “Tomato Products”. But here in London, braai relish is a foreign concept and the best we get is plain chopped tomatoes – just not the same :-( So if you want (or need) to make your own, here is a simple recipe from recipes4us

TRAIN SMASH (tomato and onion relish)


1 tbsp Oil
3 onions, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
240ml tomato sauce
120ml water
5 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp dry mustard powder
Salt and pepper
1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch


1. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions and tomatoes and sautée gently until softened.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Mix the cornflour with a little cold water to form a paste then add to the saucepan and continue to cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Serve as a sauce with meats, fish or pap.

Pap (an Afrikaans word – say “pup”), literally translated, means porridge, but in fact it is a closer relative to polenta than to the European/American idea of porridge. It is made with maize/corn meal and water and is a traditional staple food of most indigenous South Africans in much the same was as rice or noodles would be eaten in other cultures. Depending on the water/maize meal ratio, pap can be either firm (stywepap) or crumbly (krummelpap) and can be eaten for breakfast with milk and sugar, or served with a savoury sauce (like train smash!) at a barbecue. There are few things more satisfying than pap, train smash and boerewors – comfort food second to none! Try pap and train smash with your next BBQ, or instead of mash and gravy at any meal. Simple and delicious. Here is a recipe for krummelpap, which is somewhere between polenta and couscous.


 Ingredients (to serve 6):

750 ml water
2 tsp  salt
1 kg fine white corn meal, in place of maize meal


Bring water to boil. Pour meal into centre of water to form a pile, add salt, but do not stir. Reduce heat by removing from stove. Put lid on and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir with fork or wooden spoon until pap is fine-grained and crumbly. Replace lid and let simmer for 45 minutes until done.

If you prefer something firmer, try this recipe for stywepap (translated from the Afrikaans version on funkymunky).


Ingredients (to serve 4-6):

1 litre water
1 tsp  salt
320g maize meal


Use a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring the salted water to the boil. Add the maize meal. Stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon and close the pot lid. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 125ml (1/2 cup) cold water to the pap. Simmer over a low heat for a further 30 minutes before serving.

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  1. says

    I like polenta, I might try this, it sounds quite tasty. I could picture “train smash” works pretty well with oven potatoes, I might try it.

  2. says

    Anthony – yup, I do believe the two concepts are related… but somehow trainsmash is more evocative & visceral!!
    Joolez – nice to hear from you again! Train smash is lovely with baked potatoes – highly recommended! And you can spice it up with chillies if desired. :-)

  3. Ailsa says

    Train Smash in my day was called Tomato Sauce! Train Smash is a more descriptive name for it. I am 70 years of age and an ex-Capetonion. We did not use thickening in it but boiled it down till it was thick enough and sauted (fried till golden brown)the onions first. This gives it a richer flavour than just boiling and thickening it. It depends on your taste. Still a comfort food for me with either toast or potatoes of any kind.

  4. says

    Jislaaik, it is lekker. I invited a Canadian friend of mine to a braai a couple of months ago where we had boerewors and train smash. I made her eat with her fingers. Yesterday she wanted to know when I’m going to have another one because she enjoyed the first one.