It’s as South African as koeksisters and milk tart. At its most rudimentary, it’s just two slices of bog-standard government white bread, onion and tomato. Sandwich the lot together, butter it up on the outside and on the braai it goes. This doesn’t sound like much, but as any fan of the braai knows, magic happens when smoke meets food. It’s just ridiculously delicious for something so straightforward.
Of course ‘simple’ and ‘straightforward’ are not words I really understand. I blame my smidgen of Italian blood for this. My gran was a Ceronio, who married a Van der Merwe. The result two generations down the line, are kind of inevitable: I’m a cum laude graduate of The School of More Is More.
Why make plain koeksisters when you can rev things up with some rosewater? Who said I can’t add cardamom to milk tart? These are the culinary musings that occupy my waking hours. I can hear traditionalists all over the country quiver – and it’s not with delight.
Of course my love of OTT extends to the humble braaibroodjie too. Instead of plain pre-sliced bread, I use ciabatta. I pile the tomatoes extra high (naturally) and slather on loads of Pesto Princess basil pesto. Then, because I’m halfway there already and may as well go the whole hog, I add mozzarella. Smokey, cheesy, melting, tomato and basil awesomeness. I just can’t help myself. It’s in the blood.
What you need:
- 130g jar of Pesto Princess Basil Pesto
- 2 cups mozzarella, grated
- Punnet cherry tomatoes
- Small red onion, very finely sliced
- Coarse sea salt
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
What to do:
Start by prepping the tomatoes. Now biting into a juicy tomato fresh off the vine may very well be the most sensual thing you can do with food on a hot summer’s day. But here’s the rub – all that juice is not desirable when the required end result is a crisp toasted sarmie. My solution to this quandary is a nifty little trick I picked up from the fabulous Jamie Oliver. Simply slice the tomatoes the way you want them and place them in a colander. Scatter over a very generous teaspoon of sea salt and set the tomatoes aside for half an hour. The salt will draw water, intensifying the wonderful tomato taste in the process. Give the colander a good shake towards the end and the tomatoes are ready.
Next cut the ciabatta in half lengthways. If, like me, you don’t like your toasted sarmies too doughy, hollow it out some. Now spread both halves liberally with pesto. Top the bottom half with the tomatoes and onions and scatter over the cheese. Grind over black pepper and salt to taste and cover with the other half of the loaf. Brush both sides of the bread lightly with some olive oil, then place the ciabatta in a braai grid and clamp it closed. Braai over medium-low coals until the bread is crisp and brown on the outside and the cheese melting oozily on the inside. Cut in 6-8 indecently fat slices, drizzle over a last bit of olive oil, scatter over some fresh basil leaves for the pretty and serve it right away while still warm.