And the winner of the Goodlife Gautrain Taste Experience is...
South Africans are never short of ideas when it comes to a braai, as we discovered in the recent Sunday Times Goodlife Gautrain Taste Experience held in Rosebank, Johannesburg, writes Hilary Biller
Sixteen nervous but excited finalists, eight teams, 10 Weber braais, 12 bags of charcoal, a braaimaster, four judges and 50 Sunday Times readers came together at the Capsicum Culinary Studio last week for the finals of the popular Sunday Times Gautrain Experience, the third in the series of this annual competition.
The ask? Readers were invited to send in their favourite braai recipe featuring helpings of flavour and originality, sprinkled with a dash of speed. The reward? Generous cash prizes for the winning duo and two runner-up teams, Gautrain tickets, a Justin Bonello cookbook and a bag of other wonderful goodies.
Sifting through a mountain of entries produced the cream of the crop - 20 recipes that were then prepared by students at Capsicum for the preliminary judging, after which the eight finalist teams were selected.
THE BIG BRAAI
The finalists, from around the country, met at the Sandton Gautrain station where they were handed cryptic clues for the next part of their journey - a Gautrain hop to Rosebank. There they were guided to Pick n Pay in Rosebank and handed vouchers for a shopathon, with cameras capturing their every move, before heading off to the culinary studio.
Ready, steady, go - the teams lit their fires and found their spots in the kitchen, where they gathered kitchen equipment. The kitchen was a hive of activity - full of chatter, a little panic, with the contestants running between the braais outside and the kitchen. Capsicum chefs were on hand to assist where necessary and some contestants sipped wine to settle the nerves or savour the moment. Readers lent their support and advice, in between watching braaimaster and raconteur Bonello in action on the braai.
AND THE WINNER IS …
Four braai aficionados - Gautrain Management Agency's Dr Barbara Jensen, Bonello, previous winner Willie Boonzaier and myself - were presented with a tasting feast as the dishes rolled off the braais. On the menu was chicken, fish, lamb, beef, chicken livers, pork, mince and snoek.
It's always difficult to choose winners among the fabulous flavours but in the end a traditional South African feast of braai chicken, pap and chakalaka received top honours.
Made by twins Boitumelo and Lesego Tseleng, the dish featured perfectly braaied chicken - with crisp skin and melt-in-the- mouth succulence - pap (according to Jensen among some of the best she's eaten), and finished off with a dollop of the chakalaka.
Overwhelmed by their win, the twins jumped for joy as they described how the R8,000 prize money was exactly what they needed to cover the transfer fees on a recent house purchase. "Our prayers have been answered," said a teary Boitumelo.
Durbanites Gresham Madhan and Colleen Oliver came in at a close second with their "Off the Rails" braaied snoek, impressing the judges with the beautiful presentation, tender and tasty fish and delectable braaied peach slices.
In third place was a gimmicky idea courtesy of Illona Greef and Delphine van Reels, a dish they created for their children, "Turtles on the Fast Track". It consisted of savoury cheesy mince parcels wrapped in bacon and studded with sausages to represent the head, tail and legs, and grilled to a turn over the coals.
•Find the top three finalists' recipes and pictures on Sunday Times Food...