Our secret ingredient? Rooibos tea, say winners of the 'Ultimate Braai Master'

They share their favourite rooibos-inspired recipes to cook over the coals

23 September 2021 - 06:00
By Hilary Biller
Corné Bornman’s rooibos-infused BBQ chickpeas served with mac-and-cheese-stuffed braaied chicken.
Image: Marius Henning Corné Bornman’s rooibos-infused BBQ chickpeas served with mac-and-cheese-stuffed braaied chicken.

All it takes is a little rooibos tea to make you the master of the braai.

So say three previous winners of SA’s popular cooking competition The Ultimate Braai Master, the seventh season of which premieres on e-TV on Saturday.

They share some of their favourite rooibos recipes to cook over the coals:


Corne Bornman — affectionately known as “Borries” — took top honours in season six of The Ultimate Braai Master with his teammate Kagiso Mpinda.

Borries said the collapse of the hospitality industry during the Covid-19 pandemic meant he could spend more time conjuring up new recipes for the braai — and develop his new line of braai spices and sauces, Brafia.

Corné Bornman.
Image: Marius Henning Corné Bornman.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish


1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

250ml (1 cup) water

1 rooibos tea bag

50g butter

125ml (½ cup) Brafia Braai Master Sauce (or another bbq braai sauce)


  1. Place the chickpeas in a pan, add the water and tea bag. Cook over a high heat until the water has cooked away and the chickpeas have absorbed that rooibos flavour. Discard the tea bag.
  2. In a separate pan, heat the butter until frothy, then add the braai sauce and chickpeas and mix through.
  3. Serve as a braai side.


Together with her team mate, Laertes “Tubby” Melidonis, Elaine Ensor-Smith was the winner of the very first Ultimate Braai Master in 2012.

Ensor-Smith has since moved to the UK but is still a keen braai master. She says the secret to her success is her rooibos tea marinade.

“My grandmother was one of the greatest cooks and taught me how to use rooibos teas in all sorts of ways. In a marinade, it offers a unique flavour and helps to tenderise the meat.”

Elaine Ensor-Smith.
Image: Supplied Elaine Ensor-Smith.
Elaine Ensor-Smith's braaied chicken in a rooibos marinade.
Image: Supplied Elaine Ensor-Smith's braaied chicken in a rooibos marinade.

Serves: 4-6


400ml very strong rooibos tea

50ml soy sauce

50ml fresh lemon juice

Chopped garlic, optional

8 chicken breast fillets, or whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

Salt and pepper

15ml (1 tbsp) sugar or 15ml (1 tbsp) of runny honey


  1. Combine the tea, soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic, if using, in a large bowl and stir until combined. Add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade, retaining the marinade. Dry the chicken with paper towel. Season and cook over the coals.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, pour the marinade into a thick-bottomed small pot and either bring to a simmer on the stove or the edge of the braai. Add the sugar or honey and stir until it reduces and thickens. Set aside.
  4. When the chicken is almost done, baste it generously with the marinade and cook until golden brown taking care not to burn it. Serve immediately.


Chef Stephen Mandes claimed The Ultimate Braai Master title in 2014 with his teammate Yusuf Sujee.

Mandes, now the executive chef at Lawns Restaurant at the Roundhouse in Cape Town, knows a thing or two when it comes to cooking fish over the coals — and for succulent snoek he uses rooibos in the glaze and the cure.

Chef Stephen Mandes.
Image: Supplied Chef Stephen Mandes.
Chef Stephen Mandes' braaied snoek with rooibos and tamarind glaze.
Image: Supplied Chef Stephen Mandes' braaied snoek with rooibos and tamarind glaze.

Makes: 1 snoek


1 ‘vlekked’ snoek


6 rooibos tea bags

1 large onion

1 large carrot

50g fresh coriander leaves

100g sugar

50g table salt

Rooibos and tamarind glaze:

1 large onion, chopped

30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 red chillies, chopped

A small handful of fresh thyme

300ml water

5 rooibos tea bags

125g brown sugar

10ml (2 tsp) salt

10ml (2 tsp) ground black pepper

50ml Worcestershire sauce

80ml (⅓ cup) tamarind paste

15ml (1 tbsp) cornflour made into paste with 50ml water


  1. For the cure: Remove the rooibos tea from the tea bags. Blend together with the remaining ingredients to make a paste.
  2. Spread a third of the cure in a tray large enough to hold the snoek. Place the fish on top and cover with the remaining cure. Set aside and allow the snoek to soak up the flavours for at least 90 minutes.
  3. To make the glaze: Fry the onion in the olive oil until softened. Add the garlic, chillies and thyme and cook for five minutes. Add the water and rooibos tea bags and bring to the boil. Once the rooibos tea has released its flavour, remove the tea bags from the pan. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and tamarind paste and bring to the boil. Add the cornflour paste and whisk continuously until the consistency of the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.
  4. Rinse the cure off the snoek thoroughly and pat the fish dry.
  5. Prepare the fire; snoek is delicate so you don't want to dry it out. The best way to keep it juicy is to braai it in a folding braai grid over low coals and turn it frequently, opening the braai grid to baste it with the glaze each time. It will take about 25 minutes for the snoek to cook.