I’ve started to wonder whether my daily firelighting is really such a great idea, but I guess when you put it to good use, there’s not so much a need for concern. I am more than a little frustrated with cooking on a slow poke electric stove. Heat is just so important in cooking and being able to control how much and for how long. I always end up burning half the pots in my first few weeks of being back. On the other hand, searing meat is a nightmare. I’m also just super bored with my own repertoire of recipes.
Enter the benefits of the South African braai. Basically a barbecue , but the fun thing is that it doesn’t only involve slapping some steak on a grill and having a beer. The braai has become a great entertaining tool and I’ve been to few where people have pulled out all the stops and gotten seriously creative. So, with my dad’s set of iron pots I have gone off on a fire cooking frenzy. Yesterday during another power cut, I boiled water for coffee and made my whole brekkie in one pan on the fire. Nothing beats a good breakfast, and cast iron pots.
I just love the smoky taste of fire-cooked food. During a power cut just before a dinner party a few years ago, I borrowed a cast iron pot from the neighbours and cooked a tuna soup. The result was a deliciously hearty soup that seemed almost a little richer for the wonderful smoky taste the wood fire gave it. So today I’ve decided to try cooking a butternut soup on the fire. I can’t take credit for the recipe. I’ve borrowed so many ideas and come up with a spicy curried soup. The curry is a direct borrow from my friend’s mother, who has often come up with the most ingenious combinations.
So now, the pot is on the boil, and I can not wait! To accompany the beautiful soup, I’m tossing a few pre-baked ciabattas in the oven to complete my home-made theme ;). Cheating, I know… but who has time to bake when there’s a fire to watch and sit by. Even Ilya seems excited.
I almost never make the same thing exactly twice, but here’s what I’ve done today.
Make a fire, get the wood going but don’t wait for the flames to die completely. So when there’s a fair amount of half coals half flames (I’m such a girl) put your cast iron pot on the fire and give it time to heat up. Then toss in some diced lean bacon, let it fry and then chuck in 1 Spanish onion, chopped, and a few cloves of crushed garlic with a drizzle of olive oil. Fry fry fry, add chopped green bell pepper and let it fry a little before throwing in one cubed butternut and 3 blanched and peeled tomatoes. Go inside and put on the kettle to boil enough water to cover the whole lot. Go back outside and sprinkle salt and a generous amount of ground black pepper and a hand-full of chopped fresh coriander. Pour the water over and cover. Let it boil until the butternut is softly cooked. Whizz it all up with your puree-ifying tool of choice. In my case, it’s my mom’s nifty blue whizzer called “Billy”. Mix 1 cup of plain yoghurt with some jeera, barishap, curry powder, turmeric and crushed chillies and a dash of pure honey into a paste. Pour the paste over the puree, add some more water and put it back on the braai. Let it simmer for as long as you need. The coals should be hot enough to simmer, but cool enough not to burn your soup. If you’re worried about burning things, make a fire on the one side of the braai so you can scooch the pot on over to the cool side if things get out of hand. I like to keep the soup light, so absolutely NO CREAM, but a drizzle of low fat plain yoghurt and some more chopped coriander should serve well enough as garnishing. A nice Durbanville Sauvignon Blanc marries well with slightly spicier butternut soup.