I’m sad to say but I have noticed that I have transferred the bad habits from my real life to my blog life. I had a quick look last night at my “To blog list” (bad habit no.1 – excessive list making) and found that, despite all my good intentions, there is still stuff on there from June that I mean to blog about but have not got round to (bad habit no.2 – procrastination!). So in fact, my blog has become a little microcosm of my life – good intentions and impressive looking plans of action, but more rearranging of the furniture than actual progress! Now all my blog needs is a daily dose of MSG and cholesterol and then real-me and blog-me will be totally indistinguishable!! But I digress (bad habit no.3) – in a spirit of renewed blogging energy, I thought I would finish off my post on side dishes for a braai as promised. Last time I unravelled the mysteries of pap and train-smash. Today, in a spirit of Anti-Atkins fervour, I will cover two ways of serving bread at a braai – the one is old and very traditional, the other more recent, but still (as far as I can tell) unique to the South African braai.
“Roosterkoek” (literally grill cake – say “roor-stir-cook” and try to roll those r’s!) is the traditional bread to accompany a braai. The roosterkoek are simply balls of bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals and are best eaten piping hot and straight off the grill. There are other traditional braai breads (e.g. potbread), but these require a cast iron three-legged pot and will be discussed in due course when the related but distinct topic of “potjiekos” (stews in such cast-iron pots) is discussed. My earliest memory of roosterkoek was eating it at a local steakhouse as a child, where it was served before the meal instead of bread rolls. It always came to the table piping hot off the grill together with a little butter was the most simply delicious thing I had ever eaten. Because my father was never the most enthusiastic braaier in the world, we never had it at home, but as a teenager I was thrilled to discover that friends could make this stuff on demand, and on a braai!! Better still was the realisation that you could cut preparation time down by buying ready-made bread dough from a local bakery – they would sell the melon-size ball of dough, risen and ready to go, in an inflated plastic bag and all you had to do was make breadroll-sized balls and pop them on the grid! It takes a bit of skill getting the rolls to bake through without creating a layer of charcoal around the outside, and even more skill and vigilance to make sure they don’t stick irretrievably to the grid, but once you have the hang of it there’s no looking back! For those of you who plan on indulging in fresh roosterkoek, I have translated below a recipe (click on the link to see a picture of roosterkoek on the grid!!) from Pasella, an Afrikaans TV show and home of the wonderful cookbooks Pasella Kook I and II (one of which I received for Christmas – pictures to follow!). For those of you who are going to try it, it may also be helpful to bear in mind the following hints and tips: – make sure the dough is on the stiff side (reduce the liquid if necessary). If it is too runny, the dough is going to drip through the grid before the rolls have a chance to bake! – get your braai grid as clean as possible if you are going to make roosterkoek – blackened reminders of Braais Past clinging to your roosterkoek is not pretty or clever. – to stop the rolls from sticking to the grip, lightly oil your grid. Also make sure the rolls are shaped on a floured board and have some flour clinging to the outside. – be very careful with the fire you plan to cook these on. It should be neither too large (flames licking the rolls would not be a good idea!!) nor too hot (black outside + runny inside = “No thanks, not really hungry today!”). Use the hand-over-the-coals endurance test as described in my earlier post – if you can hold your hand there for 10 seconds or more, you are probably OK. Also make sure that the coals are distributed as evenly as possible before putting the roosterkoek on the grid. Roosterkoek: Ingredients: (for about 12 roosterkoek) 300g cake flour 10ml instant yeast 5ml salt 15ml sugar 5ml sunflower oil 180-200ml warm water Method: 1. Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix in a few short bursts to aerate. Add the oil and enough warm water so that the dough forms a ball when mixed. Continue mixing for 45 seconds. Place the dough in a lightly greased plastic bag (or in a lightly greased bowl covered with a damp tea towel – Ed.) and allow to rise for about 45 minutes until it has doubled in volume. 2. Divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces and shape into slightly flattened balls on a floured surface. Place on a baking sheet and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise for another 15 minutes. 3. Place the grid on evenly distributed direct coals and allow to heat for 5 minutes. Lightly grease the grid and place the rolls directly on it (alternatively, place the baking sheet in an oven at about 350 F – Ed.) for about 15-20 minutes. When half the cooking time has elapsed, turn the roosterkoek over. The roosterkoek are done when they are lightly browned, crispy on the outside and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the fire/oven, split open and serve with butter.