As I’ve written on this blog before, the South African braai is usually a meat-heavy affair. Sure, there may be salads on the side, but essentially it’s all about protein. Pity the poor vegetarian who arrives unannounced at the average braai. It’s going to be a long night picking over the salads, mate! All of which is rather a pity because, much as I like braaied meat, you can do so much more on a fire. As a kid I remember at every braai there were potatoes (and sometimes onions) wrapped in foil lying amongst the coals. Once they were done, you got the whole steaming parcel dumped on your plate and had to extract the vegetable without suffering serious burns. The outer layer of skin was invariably blackened, but if sliced open, the potatoes were soft and creamy and went down a smoky treat with butter. And later, there were the joys of fish braais, braai sarmies and roosterbrood.
Cecil had already let me know that he would provide the meat (his fabulous lamb sosaties) and salads, so because no South African can ever arrive at anybody’s house for a meal without something to contribute I arrived with the vegetables. Butternut squash is one of my favourite vegetables. You can keep it in your kitchen for a week or two without it showing any ill effects (try THAT with baby spinach!!); you can roast it; you can steam and mash it; you can slice and bake it with cream; or you can stuff it. It’s the last option that I had gone for on this occasion, so Cecil was presented with a neat tinfoil parcel containing a stuffed half-butternut that he had to find space for in the coals.
The only trick with this dish is to make sure that you don’t put it on the coals so early that the whole thinng is incierated, and to make sue the tinfoil is reasonably well-sealed so that it does not dry out. The time to put it in the coals is once the flames have died down and the coals are ashed over. Then snuggle it warmly among the coals and leave alonne for 45 minutes or so. Cecil managed to poke copious holes in the foil parcel with the business end of the skewers, so the flesh got a lovely woodsmoke flavour – fabulous. It’s not only a fantastic side dish, but also pretty close to the perfect vegetarian main course for non-meat-eating braai guests.
As I said, this particular example was served with sosaties, salad, good friends, a great view of London, a spectacular bottle of Springfield Sauvignon Blanc (amongst other things!) and a walk on Primrose Hill.
Perfection on a Sunday afternoon.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT STUFFED WITH SPINACH AND FETA (serves 8)
one large butternut squash
about a cup of cooked spinach (I used tinned)
250g feta cheese
6-8 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
Wash the butternut and slice it in half longitudinally, leaving two elongated halves. Scoop out all the seeds from the lower half.
Sautee the shallots and garlic in a little EVOO until soft. Make sure you have removed as much water as possible from the spinach and mix into the onions. Heat through, then remove from heat.
Stir in the crumbled feta into the mix (reserve some for topping), season to taste with salt, pepper and rosemary. Scoop the mixture into the hollow of the butternut.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprnkle with feta and rosemary and wram tightly in aluminium foil.
Place in the coals of a BBQ fire nce the coals are ashed over. Leave for 40-45 minutes, testing for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife. Serve when soft. (You may need to scoop the flesh carefully off the skin as it may have blackened a little.)
This is my submission to this month’s edition of Waiter, There’s Something in My… I’m hosting this month and the theme is meatless barbecue. Although the deadline is Mon 27th, I am still on my way home from Austria, so I won’t get to the roundup till mid-week. So if you want to play, there’s still time! Check my announcement post for submission instructions.