Lamb sosaties revisited – and a BBQ event!

LambSosaties © J Horak-Druiff 2010


Yes, I know it’s Monday, not Sunday, but I had 25 people at my house on Saturday, a headache like a jackhammer on Sunday AND a wine tasting in the coutryside with Andrew and friends, so please forgive me if this post revisits an old post and appears a day late…

On 24 September, South Africa celebrates Heritage Day, a holiday to highlight the incredible richness and diversity of South Africa’s cultural and natural heritage. Apart from being Heritage Day, 24 September is also celebrated as National Braai Day (a braai is a South African barbecue and rhymes with “fry” – Ed.).  For what more fitting example of our shared cross-cultural heritage can there be than a braai?  Far from being the preserve of white rugby-playing, beer-swilling males, cooking on an open fire under South Africa’s sunny skies is a uniting activity for everyone – just ask Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the patron of Braai4Heritage.

To celebrate National Braai Day this year, I have decided to host a one-off event called Braai, the Beloved Country.  I would love for you to share your favourite braai or BBQ recipes with me – it can be meat, fish, vegetables, breads, stews – in fact anything that you can cook over an outdoor fire or grill, South African inspired or not.  Then on 24 September, I will post a round-up of all the recipes in a big celebration of summery outdoor cooking.  And as it’s a one-off event, I will even let you submit favourite recipes you have posted previously – as log as you repost them during the month of September 2010.

BTBL logo

So let’s fire up the grill and have a look at the rules:

1. Post a braai/barbecue recipe between now and 23 September.  Your choice of recipes is really broad – meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, breads – as long as you cooked it over coals or an outdoor grill.

2. You must link to this announcement in your post.

3.  Multiple recipes and recipes submitted to other events are permitted.

4.  Recipes from your archives can be accepted but you MUST re-post them in a new post dated between 1 and 23 September 2010 and link to this announcement.

5.  Use of the Braai, the Beloved Country logo is optional but would be nice.  Ask me if you want code for a badge in your sidebar.

6.  A photo is preferred, but not essential.

7.  Send me an e-mail (emailcooksister AT gmail DOT com) with BRAAI in the subject line and containing: your name; your blog name; the recipe title; and the URL of the post that the recipe appeared in.  Attach a photo if you can.

I will post a roundup of all the recipes on 24 September to coincide with National Braai Day.

So – back to the recipe for today.  To inspire you in your braai endeavours, I thought I’d revisit an old South African favourite of mine: my friend Cecil’s lamb sosaties.



A sosatie is a kind of South African kebab – but it is quite distinct from a Turkish kebab or a Portuguese/Brazilian espetada, particularly for two reasons:  the meat is marinaded in a sweet Cape Malay curry sauce before cooking; and the meat on the skewer is interspersed with vegetables and fruit.  As to its origins, I turned to my favourite and most fascinating source, Hester Claassens’ doctoral thesis on the history of “Boerekos” (sadly, it is written in Afrikaans, but it is packed with well-researched information and well worth a browse if you can read Afrikaans, Flemish or Dutch).

The word “sosatie” might be related to the Indonesian satay, referring to a piece of meat cooked on a skewer.  One theory is that “sosatie” is derived from “soos satay”  (Dutch/Afrikaans for “like satay”).  Another theory is that it is an adaptation of the Indonesan word sasati meaning minced meat, the argument being that sosaties are as soft as minced meat, hence the name came to be applied to them.  But however the word originated from the Indonesian slaves’ vocabulary, it is unlikely that the origins of our modern sosatie recipe had much to do with Indonesian cooking.  Even though satay is similar in that it involves cooking meat on a skewer, satay recipes do not contain curry spices, turmeric or sugar (all essential to proper sosaties) and are usually served with a chilli-based dipping sauce which is absent in the case of sosaties.

So a far more likely explanation is that this spicy, fruity dish is related more closely to the Persian kebab – the use of turmeric, saffron and fruit with meat particularly seem to pont to the cuisine of the Middle East rather than South-East Asia.  And how, may you ask, did a Persian recipe find its way into traditional South African cooking?  Up until the end of the 18th century, the Dutch East India Company (DEIC) was in the habit of banishing troublesome (often Chinese and Muslim) political leaders to the Cape of Good Hope, usually because they were trying to break the DEIC’s monopoly on trade.  More often than not, those cooking for the political exiles were the Indonesian slaves, so it would have been an easy mistake to make to assume that sosaties were part of their culinary heritage – but in fact it was more likely to have been on Middle-Eastern origin, brought by exiles missing the taste of home.

So we are talking about a dish with an Indonesian name and Middle-Eastern origins, and that is now associated with Afrikaner cooking. No wonder they call us the rainbow nation…

The recipe looks a bit fiddly but let me assure you it is Well Worth The Trouble.  If you can’t face the idea of cutting up your own leg of lamb, I’m sure a butcher can be persuaded to sell you lamb already chopped into goulash-sized chunks.  The longer you marinde, the better – in fact, in a vintage South African recipe book of mine the recipe calls for days of marinading!  The end product is both deliciously tender and addictively sweet yet spicy, and the apricots call to mind some sort of lamb tagine on a stick.  What better way to satisfy your hunger for a little taste of the complicated country I call home.



500g boned leg of lamb, cut into 2.5cm cubes
75 g of mutton fat (optional – keeps meat moist and adds flavour at cooking stage)
3 tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
15 ml wine vinegar
2 large onions, both sliced into broad rings
50ml olive or cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
125g dried apricots
One red, yellow or green pepper cut into approx 2.5cm squares
1 Tbsp curry powder (mild korma to hot madras – the choice is yours)
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 crushed bay leaves
½ Tbsp salt
½ tsp of pepper
a knob of butter
Wooden or bamboo skewers


Heat the oil in a frying-pan and sauté the onion rings (and green pepper blocks, if using) until very lightly cooked – make sure the onion rings remain intact. Drain them on absorbent paper.

Combine the apricot jam, vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric and curry powder in a ceramic or glass bowl and add the onion rings (and green pepper, if using).

Add the meat and fat to the mixture and marinate for 24 hours in the fridge, stirring 2 or 3 times.

If the apricots are not soft, soak them in a little water until plump.  You might also want to soak the skewers so that the exposed ends do not burn to charcoal during the cooking process!

When you are ready to cook, thread the cubes of meat, apricots, mutton fat and onion rings onto the skewers.

Pour the marinade into a saucepan, bring to the boil and keep warm to serve with the sosaties.

The sosaties should ideally be braaied (barbecued) over hot coals for about 10 minutes, turning frequently.  Alternatively, you can grill them in the oven under a very hot grill, again turning frequently and basting as necessary.


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  1. says

    I have made a sosaties, can you believe that I found the recipe in a Canadian cookbook. Not so hard to believe when Canada is such a melting pot of diverse cultures. In fact my daughter grew up overlooking Mount Kopje which is a birdseye view from our last home north of here.

  2. says

    ok i need to ask this: can I submit bratwurst?
    i love the intermingling of sweet and savory flavors in this. no chance of us braaiing in november huh?

  3. says

    Oh I do wanna take part in Braii day too but seeing as i’m moving between places then (as well as mega-ing it up for my birthday event on the 25th) it’ll be hard too. Nevertheless, am feasting my eyes up on this gorgeous barbie. it’s beautiful. and i’m hungry. u tease! x

  4. says

    Fantastic event, sister! I have been saving my brother’s special bbq sauce recipe for years for something special and this may be it! Yay! And your sosaties recipe is fabulous! Love the fruity, savory, tangy flavor combo and the kabobs (ok, sosaties) look mouthwatering delicious!!! Mmmmm can’t wait till Ahafest2010 so I can taste your cooking!

  5. says

    @Nina – I am so lazy… it is my friend Cecil who always makes these and he is just so good at it!
    @Val – great to hear that you have had these! And interested to read about Mount Kopje which in Dutch would mean Mount Hill!
    @Meeta – bratwurst always welcome (as you know!). Very unlikely that we will braai in Nov… but I am sure we can come up with something nice to eat!
    @Diva – you can always re-post something from your archive? Would be fab to have you join us…
    @Jamime – can’t wait to get your brother’s special BBQ sauce! I’m honoured :)
    @Marisa – hope you will be taking part? :)
    @Jan – thanks! They are rather spectacular, especially hot off the grill…
    @Courtney – it’s a very South African thing. We add dried fruit to all sorts of meat dishes!
    @Tara – will mail it to you too, but here is the badge code:
    Braai, the Beloved Country

  6. says

    Have just seen this now. What a fab idea…Braai the Beloved Country LOL! and those Cecil sosaties have grabbed me yet again hehe. They look so very very delicious. Hopefully I will be able to join in. Bit hectic at the moment. Hope you have enjoyed the Oktoberfest….saw on twitter just now that your flight had been cancelled and you are stuck for the night. Don’t forget that urgent matter of an email to me hehe…