MUTTON OR LAMB CHOPS ON THE COALS
A friend once said to me that the Californians, the South Africans and the Australians all think that they are the best in the world when it comes to a barbecue. Maybe we should get them all together at some stage and see who is the best.
What I know for certain is that most South Africans love to BBQ (braai) and that everyone has his own methods and believes of how it should be done and usually the end result is excellent. A word of advice- do not interfere with a South African when he is busy with his braai, even if you do not agree with his methods. Let him be. He has done it many times before. It will work out.
Having said what I have in the introduction about all the different ways which it can be done, I will none the less put my neck on the line to give the novice a few braai guidelines that work for me.
Lamb is usually used for a BBQ, because it is more tender, but we often use mutton as it is cheaper and it has more flavour. It is however important to let it mature well beforehand to ensure that it is tender enough.
I myself love whole saddle chops, but any type of lamb chops can work. Leg chops are usually better value for money, but any part of the lamb can be barbecued. My wife likes shoulder cutlets. Many housewives nowadays prefer lean meat, but believe me it is not a good idea to barbecue lean chops. They usually are tough and have less flavour. It is much better to simply remove the fat before or after they have been cooked.
Worcestershire sauce (I prefer the dark type)
Coarse black pepper
Coarsely ground coriander
Salt to taste
Spread the cutlets out in a flat dish and sprinkle salt, black pepper and coriander sparsely over them. Put a few drops of Worcestershire sauce on each cutlet and spread it evenly over the cutlet. Follow the same procedure on both sides of the cutlet. Put the second layer of cutlets on top of the first and repeat the procedure until all is done.
It a good idea to do the preparation an hour or two beforehand to give the spices time to penetrate the meat. If the tenderness of the meat is suspect, it may be a good idea to spice it the day before and store it in the fridge, until it is needed.
When it comes to the actual barbecue, there are so many beliefs and techniques that it is difficult to give advice. I do not like underdone meat, but many people do. What is nice about a barbecue is that you can actually cook the meat to everybody's preference. Just leave the cutlets you want well done on the fire longer.
I prefer to cook my cutlets faster on hot coals so that they are nice and brown on the outside while still juicy on the inside (but not pink). Other people like to put them higher and on less hot coals, so that they cook slowly. Experiment and decide what works for you.
With the cutlets we usually cook some boerewors (a spicy farm sausage) and I found that boerewors cannot burn easily, even if the coals are very hot. It therefore works well to let it cook on hot coals until the one side is nice and brown and then turn it over only once and let it cook until the other side is also brown. Once both sides are nice and brown the boerewors will be cooked just right, brown on the outside and juicy on the inside. If you keep turning the boerewors, it will stay grey and all the juice will be lost as it will take longer to cook
* Afrikaans terminology:
Bakoond – an outside wood-burning oven
Boerewors – a spicy farm sausage
Braai – a BBQ
Potjie – a stew, slow-cooked in an iron pot over an open fire.
Sosaties – meat kebabs, usually with a curry sauce