He doesn’t believe gas is for braaiing. In his mind, chicken is a vegetable and steak is a food group all on its own. Who is he? He’s Jan Braai, master of all things chargrilled, and he’s on a mission to unite all South Africans around a fire. Let’s take a closer look at the personality behind the brand and the brain behind the recipe books – who is that guy, Jan Braai?
Jan Braai. Before braai: the early days
Born, schooled and studied in Stellenbosch as Jan Scannell, he started his career as a bean counter with an Honours Degree in Accounting. He served his articles in the financial services department at PwC and qualified as a chartered accountant. Not long thereafter, at the age of 25, Jan decided that this life was not all it was cracked up to be, and he packed up his calculator and ledgers in favour of the braai and assumed the moniker “Jan Braai”, becoming the poster boy for the National Braai Day initiative, aiming to unite all South Africans around the fire on Heritage Day, 24 September every year.
During this time, Jan Braai claims to have achieved two MBA qualifications – the first being his Masters in Business Administration from the University of Cape Town, and the second his Masters in Braai Activities earned from the University of Life and the School of Tough Knocks. Eleven years later, and he’s still plugging away at that braai unification message – the New York Times referred to Braai Day as ‘one of the most significant cultural celebrations in the world’ and the Economist investigated the impact of Braai Day, estimating participation numbers of between 15 – 20 million South Africans joining National Braai Day celebrations on 24 September annually.
Jan Braai: the flame, the man, the legend
He’s written four bestselling Jan Braai books that have been translated into multiple languages and internationally published. He’s also the star of his own popular TV show, ‘Jan Braai vir Erfenis’, well into its 12th season. Jan Braai is also a fanatical sportsman and spends his non-braai time pedaling, paddling or running. Not only can Jan Braai cook anything to perfection over a flame griddle in just about any conditions, but he’s also broken a world record for braaiing non-stop for more than 28 hours. That’s commitment to the cause!
Some of Jan Braai’s best recipes?
Jan Braai’s Malva Pudding in a Potjie
Ingredients for the batter:
- 1 cup flour
- ½ tot bicarbonate of soda
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tot apricot jam
- 1 tot vinegar
- 1 tot melted butter
- 1 cup milk
Ingredients for the sauce:
- ½ cup cream
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup hot water
- ½ cup butter
- You’re going to start by lighting the fire. You’ll need fewer coals than when braaiing steak, but the supply will need to be steady, once you’re baking the pudding.
- Use butter to grease your no.10 flat-bottomed baking potjie.
- Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir in your sugar (you don’t need to sift the sugar).
- In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg very well.
- Now add the jam, vinegar, butter, and milk, whisking well after adding each ingredient.
- Add the wet ingredients of step 5 to the dry ingredients of step 4 and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the batter into the potjie, put on the lid and bake for 50 mins by placing some coals underneath the potjie and some coals on top of the lid.
- Don’t add too much heat, as burning is a big danger. There is no particular risk in having too little heat and taking up to 1 hour to get the baking done, so rather go too slow than too fast.
- During this time, you can add a few fresh hot coals to the bottom and top of the potjie whenever you feel the pudding is losing steam.
- After roughly 50 mins of baking, it should be well risen and brown.
- When the pudding has been baking in the potjie for about 40 mins (about 10 mins before it is done), heat all the ingredients for the sauce in a small potjie over medium coals.
- Keep stirring to ensure that the butter is melted, and the sugar is completely dissolved, but don’t let the mixture boil.
- If you want a (slightly) less sweet pudding, use half a cup of sugar and a full cup of hot water for the sauce, instead of the other way around as per the ingredients list.
- After about 50 mins of baking, insert a skewer into the middle of the pudding to test whether it’s done. If the skewer comes out clean, it’s ready.
- Take the pudding off the fire and pour the sauce evenly over it. Serve the malva pudding warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a dollop of fresh cream or a puddle of vanilla custard.
The Braai Gatsby
Ingredients for the Gatsby:
- 600 g rump or sirloin
- ½ tot oil
- ½ tot masala spice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large baguette
- soft butter
- crisp lettuce
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes – sliced
- 2 onions – caramelised
- 1 cup Cheddar cheese – grated
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ tsp peri-peri powder
For the röstis:
- 1 onion – peeled
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tot olive oil
- 1 tot butter
- Coat the steak with oil, then season it evenly with the masala spice. It’s best to do this spicing a few hours before the braai, or even the previous day.
- If you reckon the steak might be tough, no one will complain if you give it a few good whacks with a meat mallet before spicing it.
- Make the potato röstis. Grate the onion and potatoes with the coarse side of your grater and toss them into a mixing bowl.
- Add the salt and pepper and mix well. In a flat-bottomed cast-iron pot or flameproof pan over a medium-hot fire, heat the oil and butter together.
- Then put the rösti mixture into the pan, using an egg lifter or a spatula to flatten each rösti by putting some pressure on it.
- You can either make one big rösti at a time that fills the whole pan or make a few smaller röstis together in the pan. The latter option is easier, as one big rösti sometimes breaks when you turn it. Whichever route you go, the rösti should be about 1 cm thick.
- Fry until golden brown on both sides, which should take about 3–5 mins a side over medium heat. Remove from the pan.
- If you made smaller röstis, they can be served whole, and if you made bigger röstis you can slice them into quarters.
- Braai the steak over very hot coals for 4 mins each side, then take it off the fire. Leave it on a wooden board to rest a few mins.
- While the steak is taking a nap, cut the bread open lengthways (but not completely through) and spread butter on the inside. Keeping it open, toast the buttered side over the coals for a min or two.
- To assemble the gatsby, put a few lettuce leaves on the bottom half of the bread.
- Then add slices of tomato and pack rösti pieces on top of that.
- Slice the steak into thin strips and add to the baguette together with the caramelised onion and Cheddar cheese.
- Mix the peri-peri into the mayo and spread it onto the inside top half of the baguette.
- Close the sandwich and slice into four pieces.
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