I was going to make chicken thighs for dinner and I wanted to taste a completely new recipe. I had no mood to cook anything from Asian or Mediterranean cuisine. So for ideas I checked my cooking magazines for this grilling season ideas.
Looking through the pictures and articles I was intrigued by the word “braai”. It is a South African grill, very similar to American barbecue, but with its own character. According to the American chef Elizabeth Binder, braai is a kind of social phenomenon where men gather around the grill and socialize with a glass of wine or beer: one man cooks and the others enjoy the company. At the same time women chat in the kitchen, preparing bowls of salads, vegetables and side dishes.
A few words about Elizabeth Binder: she was born in South Africa, where she graduated from a culinary college and worked in the best places of the country. She was lucky to prepare meals even for the presidents. Then, she packed a backpack and went to see the world. Working as a cook in many prestigious places in England and Australia, Elizabeth later settled in California, where she is working now and also preparing for the famous show ‘Top Chef’.
So, I wanted to learn more about the braai. And my acquaintance resulted in a terrific dinner in, I believe, true South African style. I mixed the spices, marinated chicken for the grill and cooked a fantastic Chakalaka which could be a salad, or a side dish.
A characteristic feature of the South African cuisine is an extensive use of a very hot chili pepper, so called “bird’s eye” (also known as Thai chili). Unlike my son I can not handle extremely spicy dishes, so for my salad I used a jalapeno – and it was just enough heat for me.
Traditionally, Chakalaka is prepared with tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and red hot chili pepper – the “bird’s eye”. Very often white beans are added.
In the modern times it is not unusual to find a cauliflower or white cabbage in Chakalaka.
Today I am introducing my version of a bright and tasty Chakalaka – a gorgeous side dish or a salad, perfect for a picnic and equally delicious either hot or cold (room temperature).
Oh, by the way, I have already made Chakalala three times. In the last one I replaced navy beans with garbanzo beans. What a delish!
[My picture of the Chakalaka is published in Johannesburg tourist booklet (South Africa)]
In a frying pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and ginger, and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the chili pepper, curry powder and cook for 1 minute.
Add the carrots and cook for 1 minute.
Add the sweet peppers and stir.
Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 12-15 .
Remove the lid, add the beans and cilantro. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.
If Chakalaka is too sour to your taste (it depends on the tomatoes), add ¼ – ½ tsp sugar.
Cook with pleasure and enjoy the world!