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Stoke up the Beer, Food and Fire

Stoke up the Beer, Food and Fire
All photos from Beer Food Fire, published by Penguin Random House. Photos: Louis Hiemstra

Launched at the beginning of February, Beer Food Fire is the work of brothers-in-law Greg Gilowey and Karl Tessendorf, and although they are rather fond of each other, the abbreviation of BFF is purely a coincidence.

Since Nigella does it all the time, I see no reason not to make up my own words for describing food. However, I wasn’t the first one to think of “droolicious” — which in the Urban Dictionary refers to a hot person rather than yummy food, which I now know I can drop into casual conversation — but it came to mind nonetheless when I was perusing my brand spanking new copy of Beer Food Fire.

Launched at the beginning of February, the book is the work of brothers-in-law Greg Gilowey and Karl Tessendorf, and although they are rather fond of each other, apparently the abbreviation of BFF is purely a coincidence. The book is utterly gorgeous — the photography is spectacular (yes, droolicious), the recipe titles tap into primal desires and urge us to consume vast amounts of the deliciousness that is meat and beer (obviously), and best of all to each of us who appreciates such things, it’s entertaining and well written.

Beer is not only explained in loving detail, but it is used as an ingredient, and not only that bread we all made in the 1980s. Beer butter, for example. “Butter makes everything better so it makes sense that beer butter would make everything awesome,” they say. You cannot argue with this logic. Think beer and bacon jam (the stuff of Homer Simpson’s dreams), beer barbeque sauce, beer mayonnaise, beer mustard, and — oh my word — dark chocolate stout caramel…

It’s also great for food pairing; please don’t shoot us, because we love wine too, but beer often makes for an easier and sometimes better match. Suggestions are incorporated in the book with each recipe because some of the time the beer is in the glass, not in the food itself.

Recipes include snacks like skilpadjies stuffed three ways; bacon, blue cheese and fig chilli poppers; and what they call Unicorn Wings (buy the book, I ain’t telling).

As for the main attractions, have you ever considered Caesar salad on the braai? Nope, didn’t think so. Greg and Karl did. This section is the bulk of the book, the meat if you will. On this note, vegetarians and vegans should stop reading now, if they haven’t already done so. It ranges from the traditional (surely we’ve all done a version of the sweet and spicy snoek?) to the unusually creative, like Asian skirt steak tacos. If it can be done on a grid or in a potjie, you’ll find it in here, including twists on the staples. As Karl says, sometimes you just want a boerie roll, but why be ordinary? Make it a bacon and banana boerie roll; or blue cheese, dukkah and pickled onion boerie roll.

There are some side dish ideas, and desserts too. If you haven’t had a koeksuster with chocolate ganache and peanut butter whipped cream, frankly my dear, you have not lived.

How Karl and Greg got to this level of fire cooking came about after they were runners-up in the first season of Ultimate Braai Master in 2011.

It was super shit to come second,” says Karl. “But it pisses you off just the right amount to do something,” adds Greg. Which is how their TV series Beer Country came about (the first television show in South Africa to carry a government warning), produced by Cooked In Africa, which also makes UBM (season six is currently on e.tv, Sundays at 4pm).

All the recipes in the book have evolved over the past five years. “We didn’t develop these things, they are what we like to cook at home,” explains Karl. “We look at different cuisines for inspiration and if it’s tasty we’re going to make it.”

Greg Gilowey. Photo: Louis Hiemstra

There is collaboration between them, a lot of arguing, and a great deal of testing. To their wives’ displeasure, this seems to happen mostly when they are not there, and they want to know why they don’t get to eat the dishes in the book.

When it comes to making a braai, everyone in South Africa has a Phd, says Greg. The rules are whatever works for you.

The first time I ever met my folks-in-law, Karl’s mom and dad, I was windgat and I was ‘we’ll make a WOOD fire’, and I went and I did it. It took me four boxes of Blitz and I still couldn’t get it alight. Smoked out the whole place. And they still let me marry their daughter!” relates Greg.

Karl Tessendorf. Photo: Louis Hiemstra

Over time, they’ve come up with their tried and tested method which involves charcoal and wood, but never briquettes. It’s effective even with wet wood, which can be soul destroying as that steam and water sizzle out of it.

And yes, you can use firelighters without shame: “Ja, well, if it works, why not?” shrugs Karl.

The guys have also created their own “put it on almost everything” (apparently steak is not the best result though) spice called Karoo Dust. They proudly presented me with a bottle as a gift.

It looks burny,” I said, eyeing its bright orange colour. “Naaaah,” replied Karl. “I put it on my kids’ popcorn.” Yes Karl, and Thai babies eat curry.

The first word on the label is “deadly”, followed by the advice to “use dangerously” so I’m a tad sceptical, but I’ll give it a try.

After a fun interview of which half was dedicated to beer (and unfortunately too much to use here — again, buy the book; you won’t be sorry), Greg and Karl cheerfully insisted I join them for a braai, and they have accepted the challenge to make me boerewors I like, after I admitted — to their combined looks of horror — that I am not a fan.

You’ve obviously had a lot of bad wors,” said Greg. Cue raucous laughter all round, because “that’s what she said”.

We’re hilarious. DM

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