A braai (barbecue) can be extremely bad for your health. Or it can be medicine. You choose.

December in South Africa is certainly NOT a picture of health:

High quantities of meat, including boerewors, which is a processed meat. Store-bought marinade sauces, most of the time full of chemicals and sugar. More store-bought mayonnaise and other condiments. Not to mention the extra snacks, ice-creams, alcohol mixes, etc.

All these food items increase inflammation in the body, affecting metabolic health, in the short-term and the long-term. It’s time that we started to move away from the “all-processed-meat” braai to the “food-is-medicine-over-the-coals” version.

So here are my top seven tips for braaiing (barbecuing) this December:

1. Meat

Try to choose free-range venison instead of beef (beef farming is environmentally unfriendly). You could also look at sustainably caught fish like snoek or mackerel. Instead of serving everyone their own individual piece of meat, slice the meat as it comes off the braai, drizzle with olive oil and herbs and allow everyone to take small pieces.

2. Marinade

Don’t choose anything that is pre-marinaded in-store. These marinades include lots of added sugar, preservatives, and other additives. We pre-marinade our venison in salt, pepper, a little high-quality teriyaki, and some balsamic vinegar. On another night, we created Mediterranean-style kebabs with venison mince.

3. Sauce

No store-bought sauces or condiments. If you’re going away, pre-make your own chili paste, mayonnaise (egg-free so that it lasts longer) and pesto. These three sauces go nicely with almost anything that comes off the braai.

4. Bread

No store-bought garlic breads or other braai breads. In fact, why bread at all?

5. Vegetables

Add at least three types of vegetable to the braai. My favourites are: Sweetcorn, baby marrow, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and broccoli. You can also experiment with charred lettuce (especially cos). Please remember braaiing veggies takes some experimentation and some practice. In general, grind some salt onto the veggies about an hour before they go onto the braai (this helps to extract the moisture from the vegetable as it’s braaiing). You can also experiment with some simple sauces, for example, after you’ve charred broccoli on the braai, add some freshly squeezed orange and teriyaki before serving.

6. Salad & Olive Oil

Add a large salad to each braai table, with some tahini on the side. Dress the salad in plenty of good quality olive oil and some sea salt.

7. Brunch

If you are doing a skottel-braai breakfast at a picnic spot, consider replacing bacon, eggs, fried bread, etc., with a stir fry. We pre-made the rice, cut all the veggies (peppers, carrots, garlic, onion, and cabbage) and added some snoek that came off the braai from the night before. Everything was gently fried in a 100% butter and then some water to steam. And everyone added a little teriyaki, soya sauce, and chili to their own at the end.

Below are some photos and ideas from my family’s recent trip into the bush. Just to say that the combination of venison, chili, pesto, onion, and baby marrow is delicious. You won’t go back!


Above: Tomatoes and red peppers over an open flame. Cook until soft, then chop and add some garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh chillies. You can also see the potatoes wrapped up and placed in the coals.
Broccoli overlooking the Olifants river.
Wash everything down with family and a beautiful African sunset.