There are four questions I’m asked whenever I’m interviewed on radio. Firstly, the interviewer wants to know whether women can braai. Yes. But simply saying yes won’t suffice in a radio interview, so I usually follow it by saying that women are also good at making salads in the kitchen. I add the kitchen part because it’s a chauvinistic thing to say and DJs expect me to make a few of these remarks for the sake of cheap humour. This is called ‘expectation management’.
Then they want to know if vegetarians can braai. Yes. I usually follow up on this answer with examples of vegetables that are great on the braai … mielie, aubergine, butternut, mushroom and chicken. Chicken is obviously not a vegetable, but the interviewer expects me to say it, so I do; another example of expectation management.
Thirdly, I’m asked where the idea for Braai Day came from. That one is way too long to answer in a radio interview or Getaway column.
And lastly, they always want to know whether using gas counts as braaiing. No! Gas is Afrikaans for a guest at your braai.
But something they never ask in interviews is whether potjiekos is braai. I hadn’t been asked that until recently when it came through on Twitter.
Apparently it was the topic of quite a heavy wager between two mates and they decided to ask my judgement instead of flipping a coin. The answer was yes, obviously and absolutely. In some cases, potjie is more braai than braai itself. There are people gathered around a fire, preparing food – of course that is braaing!
Making potjie is fantastic. The process lasts for hours, the smells escaping from the classic three-legged pot are delicious and the sound of a simmering pot and crackling fire is like live symphony music to my ears. To my mind, making it on a gas burner in your living room or kitchen when there is a hurricane outside is closer to having a real braai than cooking steak outdoors on a gas barbeque. Cooking pasta in your pot would still count as braaing.
Which brings us to this month’s recipe, an Italian classic and something you really should master, puttanesca pasta. The dish can be prepared entirely from non-perishable ingredients, ideal for a camping trip or safari. It can be served as a light lunch, but serving puttanesca pasta as a side dish to braaied fish will elevate the meal from Wild Coast or West Coast to something quite Italian south coast.
Puttanesca pasta potjie recipe
Serves four as a main and up to eight as a side
- 500 g spaghetti
- 3 tots olive oil
- 1 big onion, chopped
- 8 anchovy fillets
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
- 1 tot capers (drained)
- ½ to 1 cup black olives, drained, pitted and halved (not an exact science)
- 2 tins peeled and chopped tomatoes
- 2 tots tomato paste
- 1 tot fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Cook pasta in the potjie on the fire, remove when al dente and set aside.
- Add the olive oil and chopped onion to the now-empty pot and return it to the fire. Lightly fry the onion for about six minutes.
- Add the anchovies, garlic and chilli and stirfry for another two minutes, breaking up the anchovies with the spoon. The idea is for the anchovies to dissolve into the oil.
- Add the capers, olives, tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well and simmer for about eight minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.
- Add ground pepper and salt to taste; go easy on the salt as the anchovies and capers already added saltiness to the pot.
- Add the cooked spaghetti and toss for a minute or two until everything is properly mixed and the pasta is heated through again. Garnish with chopped parsley.