A Namibian braai is not a braai without that most iconic of side dishes, braaibroodjies. This grilled sandwich most likely crossed over into Namibia from South Africa its neighbour across the Orange River. It is but one of a number of bread dishes cooked over an open fire and hot embers.
To the cultural outsider, it may look like just another grilled cheese sandwich, but to those in the know, it is often the highlight of the braai.
For a truly world-class braaibroodjie, one has to consider all the individual components and their influence on one another. The bread, the spread, the filling, the garnish, the tools and the temperature all play their part.
Traditional braaibroodjies consists only of four ingredients. Two slices of plain, government-issue white bread, sliced or grated cheese (usually ordinary cheddar cheese), thinly sliced onion and sliced tomato.
Once seasoning is done, the braaibroodjie is assembled and transferred to a hinged braai-grid. It is grilled over medium embers until the bread is nicely toasted and the cheese is melted. In the days before hinged braai-grids, the two slices of bread were secured by yarn, string or sewing thread. If you were tough enough, the braaibroodjie would have been turned using nothing but bare hands. If you were smart, you’d use a spatula or egg lifter.
As is to be expected with something so popular, new recipes are developed all the time. N
The braai world is divided along a continuum covering a spectrum of options ranging from ‘hands-off’ traditionalism to ‘everything goes’ modernity. Most lovers of braaibroodjies will most probably find comfort somewhere between these two extreme ends of the spectrum.
Chutney and balsamic vinegar are two popular additions as it also contains some acidity. This helps to prevent the braaibroodjie from slipping into the realms of pudding or dessert. Another way to achieve the same result is to combine sweetness with something savoury like cheese or vegetables. Cheese with apricot jam, or cheese with sweet onion jam are two popular varieties on this theme.
If you consider kicking your braaibroodjies up a notch, dump the cheap government-issue white bread. Bread with nuts and/or seeds provide both additional textures and interesting flavours. Go slow when grilling these as burned nuts or seeds could produce unpleasant, bitter aftertastes.
Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gruyère, Fontina, Provolone and Gouda are all cheeses that melt easily. Such cheeses are essential to include if you’re looking for serious cheese-strings. Others such as Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola and Parmesan deliver great flavour. Try to c
Fresh herbs – rocket, basil, coriander and thyme – and herbal condiments such as pesto’s and herbal oils add freshness and flavour. They should be given their rightful place.
Braaibroodjies are not “melts” and thus such they should only be cooked on a braai grill, over medium to low embers. They are usually the last part of the meal to go onto the grill. They should be eaten whilst still warm to ensure the greatest joy from the melted cheese.
Braaibroodjies are a side dish to a meal that consists of grilled proteins: meat, fish or chicken. Thus, it is imperative that the filling complements the main protein. Thus, avoid the ever-popular chocolate-spread.
No pan, no oven, no panini press, and no flat-top are ever allowed. Cook your sandwich on one of these and it becomes a “melt”, and can no longer be considered a braaibr