Cook, traveller, father, husband, filmmaker, gardener... and not particularly in that order. Filmmaker, veteran presenter, author and Head of Production at Cooked in Africa Films, Justin Bonello has worked in the film industry since he was 14 years old and is the co-founder of one of South Africa's leading film production companies. To date he and managing partner, Executive Producer, Peter Gird have produced more than 23 television series broadcast in over 100 countries around the world and they have no plans to stop any time soon. Justin has done the very thing that we all dream of - taking the things he cares most deeply about and making his world revolve around them. His passion for the outdoors and South Africa's untamed beauty is rooted in his childhood where he spent weekends on the Breede River and holidays on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. As he grew up, so too did his appetite for good, wholesome, down-to-earth food.
Published with permission from COOKED IN THE KAROO
by Justin Bonello, www.justinbonello.com. Photography Louis Hiemstra and Cooked in Africa films. All rights reserved.
Some nights the last thing I feel like doing is slaving over a hot fire, making dinner for everyone, while my friends get to play. This is how I felt one night on Kruisvallei after another extremely hot day. Dinner was going to be lamb burgers (from now on known as lam'burgers) on roosterkoek, all made from scratch on the braai.
Instead of me doing all the hard graft, the plan was that everyone create their own burgers, and what started as a lazy summer's evening, quickly became a typical Cooked party. As much as I love my motley bunch of friends, I couldn't entirely trust them to make the star of the show - the actual lamb mince patties, so I did that part. And from there everyone made their own burger by adding whatever weird concoction they could come up with to their lamb patties.
For about 10 people you'll need the following:
- 2 kg Lamb Mince
- About 2 cups of Breadcrumbs
a couple of cloves of crushed Garlic
a handful of Fresh Basil, chopped
- a handful of toasted & crushed Coriander Seeds
a couple of pinches of Salt and Black pepper (to taste)
- Roosterkoek, made on the braai
First up, put the mince in a bowl that's big enough to fit both your hands in to so that you can work the meat. Crack in an egg, add the breadcrumbs, all the garlic, herbs and spices. Using your hands, mix it thoroughly. Now leave it centre stage, with jars of whichever spices you have, plates of fresh herbs and a selection of cheeses and other goodies. When it comes to lamb think of those wining flavours of mint, tzatsiki, rosemary ... you get the picture.
Then sit back and enjoy the show.
I'm not sure if it's because of their dismal spice knowledge, but some of them held up spice jars, sniffed at it (some of them a little too hard, getting red pepper up their noses) shook it (as if it would somehow reveal itself), stared at (for really long) all in an attempt to figure out what they were and what they would use them for. Then they would simply shrug, make vague comments like "hmm, that smells nice so I'll use it." And of course they did.
I sat back, sipped my brandy and coke and took mental notes. Some of the burgers were really scary, but the rule was if you made it, you had to eat it.
This is what my friends did:
- Tania: The Karoogirl Burger: Add a few pinches of ground coriander.
- Louis: Sweet Rosemary Jane: Loads (and LOADS) of ground coriander, black pepper, salt, cloves and rosemary.
- Megs: The Roaring Megs: About half a chilli (chopped up, seeds and all ... she's hard-core like that), loads of crushed garlic and a thick slice of Camembert folded into the centre of the patty. She topped her burger with chilli sauce.
- Sunel: Die Kaasbroek: A big chunk of camembert folded inside, topped with another big slice of cheese once it was on the bun. I've got to admit, her burger looked pretty sweet.
- Brad: The Megatron! To his patty he added fancy rosemary and lime infused sea salt, ground coriander, chilli, mustard seeds and black pepper.
- Helena: The No Idea Burger : She added black pepper, salt, fresh mint, rosemary, chilli then mixed it all together and folded a big chunk of blue cheese into the centre of the patty.
- Darren: The Rogering : Darren kept it quite simple and added chilli, rosemary, coriander and fresh mint.
- Justin: The Winnnnaaaa! (Of course). I believe when you have really good meat, you should do as little as possible to spoil the taste of it. So all I did was add a bit more salt and some fresh mint.
PS: How long you braai it for is up to you, just make sure you do it over moderate coals and for at least 5 minutes a side - but you know the drill. Don't overcook the meat - there's no need to kill it twice.
You can make an array of condiments for the burgers. We had tzatsiki (chopped garlic, cucumber, plain yoghurt, mint, parsley, dill and salt all mixed together) and Tania's tamatie gemors.