South Africa: Breyani

When South Africa week was approaching I was trying to think about the possible food I would cook. I have so many beautiful family recipes that I wanted to use. I initially thought I would try and cook one meal a day. But my housemate was away for the week and I thought that cooking 7 meals would actually just be absurd. I’m also trying to be a little healthy, so didn’t want to cook some sort of dessert that I would then be forced to eat (because otherwise it’s just rude).

So what I’ve decided is that over the course of this challenge I will be interspersing some other South African recipes. Standby for the following: Wawa’s Pineapple Crush Fridge Tart, my mom’s Karoo Pudding and her Mielie Bread. Her mom’s (my late gran’s) recipe for koeksusters, our close family friend Pippa’s milk tart (I’ll likely use more recipes from her throughout the year), my friend DeWet’s mom’s rusks (Sunette would always send rusks home with him to the digs in 2014 which we would invariably ‘klap’ in no time) and vetkoek (I don’t have a recipe for this yet).

Because I often struggle to find meals to cook at home, especially if I’m cooking for myself, I decided to cook Aunty Eileen’s Breyani. I had actually never tasted it, but my brother has and I’ve heard only good things about it. I figured something savoury would be a good idea too. Here is her recipe. I browsed through it and the ingredients seemed simple enough to obtain – I had most of them in fact. What I failed to initially take into account is how many elements there actually are. So many of the parts require cooking at different times – my kitchen looked like something from ‘How Clean is Your House.’

The process went off pretty successfully, but I hit a snag toward the end. I had beautifully layered the elements in the pot to cook for 10 minutes before placing it in the oven for like 1.5 hours. I realised then that the pot I was using couldn’t go in the oven – it had plastic handles. I had to transfer it into a baking tray. When I asked my aunt if it had to stay in the layers she said yes, and that I should only mix it about half way through the cooking. I did some googling and saw that some Breyani is cooked on the stove top the whole way – first on high heat and then simmering on low. I decided to go with this but then I could smell that my lentils on the bottom layer were burning, and I couldn’t bear to have a whole meal burning in front of me. So I transferred it into the baking tray.  Obviously the pot and tray are different sizes and it was impossible to take it out the pot and maintain the layers. So I had to mix it up from the get go of the oven cooking stage. And it wasn’t the end of the world. The only thing I think that happened as a result was that it was slightly dryer than Breyani I’ve had in the past. It tastes delicious but because the top layers of onion and potatoes were not there to protect the rice and the chicken – and lots of the chicken and rice was exposed throughout cooking, they were a little dry. But as I say, still delicious, and I have Breyani for DAYS in my freezer (my mom and aunt are both excited about this fact!)

Even though it was quite a mission to cook, I would definitely do it again, but maybe for more people so I don’t have to fill my freezer with Tupperware (lucky I have enough!)

Breyani layers




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