Fire up the coals this braai-day with recipes perfected by SA braai masters

In South Africa, it’s always a good time for a braai, but on Heritage Day (24 September), also dubbed, National Braai Day – when everyone gathers round for a braai-feast – we pull out all the stops! 

To impress friends and family with a truly South African braai this year, four Ultimate Braai Master winners pooled their culinary skills to create the ultimate Braai Day menu with another favourite South African staple, Rooibos tea. 

Elaine Ensor-Smith, who became the first Ultimate Braai Master in 2012 with braai-mate, Laertes ” Tubby” Melandonis, now lives in the UK and is working on the final edit of her recipe book, which she hopes to get published soon.

Season 1 winner of Ultimate Braai Master, Elaine Ensor-Smith, says her grandmother was the greatest of cooks and taught her how to use Rooibos in all sorts of ways. Here’s her take on a few Rooibos braai recipes that’s ideal for Heritage Day.

Rooibos Marinade
  1. Rooibos Marinade


  • 400 ml very strong Rooibos
  • 50 ml soy sauce
  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • Chopped garlic (optional)
  • 8 filleted chicken thighs or whole chicken cut into 8 pieces


  1. Soak chicken overnight in marinade.
  2. Remove half the marinade, add 3 teaspoons of sugar and a squirt of honey to it. Place in a thick bottomed small pot and simmer on the coals or on the grid. Stir until it thickens. Set aside to cool.
  3. Once chicken is done, baste it with the reduction and pop it back on the fire for a few seconds a side to seal it, which will add a rich colour and taste to the meat.
  1. Bush tea braai salad dressing


  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • Juice of a large lemon
  • 250 ml strong Rooibos tea
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 5 ml honey
  • pinch of salt


  1. Blend it together and chill. Light and delish on a big fresh green salad! 

To cool off in the summer heat, she suggests the following:

Summer Coolers
  1. Summer coolers

Ice blocks

Make ice cubes with Rooibos tea and a sprig of mint. Add to gin or vodka and tonic.

Also delicious in a glass of cold water with a squirt of lemon.

Rooibos arctic ice lollies for the kids

Make a weakish Rooibos brew, add a dash of lemon and honey or sugar.  Pour into

ice lolly moulds and freeze. Really cooling and also great for teething toddlers.

Recipes courtesy of Elaine Ensor-Smith 

Stephen Mandes, who claimed the Ultimate Braai Master title in 2014, along with Yusuf Sujee, has continued to wow diners at some of Africa’s top hotels and restaurants. He is currently the executive chef at the Lawns restaurant at the Roundhouse in Camps Bay. 

Season 3 winner and chef extraordinaire, Stephen Mandes explains how to braai a succulent snoek with Rooibos and Tamarind Glaze.

  1. Braaied Snoek with Rooibos and Tamarind Glaze

Ingredients for glaze

  • 1 large reg onion
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 5 Rooibos tea bags
  • 10g fresh thyme 
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 80g tamarind paste
  • 50ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 120g brown sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 10g freshly ground black pepper
  • 10g chopped red chillies
  • 350ml water (300ml for glaze-50ml for corn flour slurry) 
  • 15g corn flour


  1. Sauté the onion in the olive oil till softened. Then add the garlic, chillies and thyme and cook for five minutes.
  2. Add in the water, Rooibos tea bags, and bring them to the boil. Once the Rooibos tea has released its flavour, remove them from the pot.
  3. Add in the sugar, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and tamarind paste. Bring this to the boil. 
  4. Prepare the slurry with water and corn flour. While the liquid is boiling whisk in the corn flour mixture. Continue to cook until the consistency covers the back of a spoon.

Prep the snoek

  • 1 whole fresh snoek

Quick rooibos cure

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 50g coriander leaf
  • 6 Rooibos tea bags (tea to be taken out of the bag) 
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g salt


  1. Blend all the ingredients together to make a kind of a paste.
  2. Introduce the snoek to the cure.
  3. In a large enough tray, pat down a third of the cure, then place the snoek on top of that and cover with the rest of the cure.
  4. This snoek needs to soak up the flavours for about an hour and a half.
  5. Rinse off the cure thoroughly and pat it dry – it should be smelling delicious!
  6. Once the glaze and snoek are ready, get the coals and grid ready. Remember that snoek is delicate, so we don’t want to dry it out. The best way to keep it juicy is to braai it over low coals, to turn it often and to glaze it every time. It should take you about 25 minutes to braai the snoek.

Recipe courtesy of Stephen Mandes

Photo courtesy of Ultimate Braai Master
John Grundlingh, who won season 4 of Ultimate Braai Master, along with braai partner, Piet Marais in 2015 went on to win, Laat die Potte Prut in 2016 and also represented SA at the World Food Championships held in the US in the same year. He is a hands-on kind of guy that manages his own construction company, while doubling up as a cooking show host on TV and is a WWF/SASSI ambassador – something which he’s very passionate about. 

Season 4 winner, John Grundlingh can’t resist a good fish braai. Here he prepares one of his favourites – a Rooibos Smoked Mackerel (Katonkel), which btw, is on the SASSI green list. He says using Rooibos stalks/leaves on its own or blended with butter and a bit of garlic, parsley or dill adds an otherworldly flavour to fish on the grill. 

Rooibos cured & smoked Mackerel
  1. Rooibos cured & smoked Mackerel


  • Rooibos and Honeybush blend
  • 1 x mackerel
  • Smoked seaweed and dill salt
  • Foraged seaweed and dune plants or micro herbs for garnish


  1. Take 1 x mackerel and fillet.
  2. Clean fillets and lay in the tray to do curing in.
  3. Cure fillets with 250 ml cold Rooibos tea in the tray.
  4. Sprinkle 2 tea bags of leaves over fish fillets with smoked seaweed and dill salt with a pinch of black pepper.
  5. Put mackerel in the indirect smoker at 100 ºC for 30 min. 
  6. Take mackerel out of smoker and place on wooden board to cool down and serve with fine strips of foraged seaweed and dune soutslaai or just micro herbs if you don’t live close to the coast.


Prep 30 min

Cure 1 hour

Smoke 20-30 min depending on the thickness of fish.

Rest for 20 min and serve.

Recipe courtesy of John Grundlingh

Photo courtesy of Ultimate Braai Master
After winning season 5 of Ultimate Braai Master, Chanel Marais and Nick Perfect launched their own food truck and smoked gourmet food product line, operating under the “Salty Flames” banner. While the project is currently on hold due to COVID-19 challenges, Marais has since started another business targeted at the yachting industry, but says her love for creating great food on a fire is still very much a part of her life.

Season 5 winner, Chanel Marais wowed viewers, alongside teammate, Nick Perfect with their “out of the box” thinking, which helped them to claim the title. Here she experiments with a Rooibos-infused smoke Trout recipe. 

Rooibos-infused Smoked Trout with Beetroot & Feta side salad


  • 1 large fresh trout, filleted 
  • 1 deep baking tray, lined with tinfoil
  • 1 orange, sliced in half and used as trivets for the cooling rack to rest on top
  • 1 lemon, zest placed on top of the trout 
  • Fresh dill – chopped up finely
  • ¼ cup of uncooked rice (to smoke the fish)
  • ¼ cup Rooibos tea leaves (about 5-6 teabags)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar 
  • 1 x small cooling rack, lightly greased 
  • Heavy duty tinfoil, to seal


  1. Add rice, Rooibos tea leaves and brown sugar to the bottom of your lined baking dish. 
  2. Place the cooling rack over the rice, lay the fish on top, season with salt and pepper and place the baking dish over low heat. Leave on the heat until the rice mixture starts to smoke and sugar begins to melt. 
  3. Seal the dish tightly with tinfoil (try have the tinfoil not touch the fish), leave over the heat for another 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the fish to smoke for 8-10 minutes or until tender. 
  4. Remove the fish, season with lemon zest, salt and pepper, and dill on top.

Side dish salad:

  • Beetroot – pickled and cut into small cubes
  • Feta – crumbled 
  • Baby spinach 
  • Red onion – finely sliced
  • Basil leaves – washed and crushed
  • Sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients together and add in dressing below and serve with smoked trout.

Salad dressing:

  • 1 tbs honey
  • ½ lime juice
  • 2x tbs red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients and place into side dish salad.

Recipes courtesy of Chanel Marais

Photo courtesy of photographer, Marius Henning
Season 6 winner of Ultimate Braai Master, Corné Bornman – affectionately known as “Borries” says with the near death of the hospitality industry as a result of the pandemic, he has been spending more time than ever in front of the fire. It also gave him time to perfect his new line of braai spices and sauces, called, Brafia available online from the Brafia Facebook page for those that want to replicate the flavours at home.

Season 6 winner, Corné “Borries” Bornman, a.k.a the “Braai-father” has shown how versatile Rooibos is by creating several braai dishes, ranging from savoury to sweet. 

Photo courtesy of photographer, Marius Henning
Norwegian Salmon smoked and blackened with Cajun spice and Rooibos tea served with grilled fennel, fire roasted beetroot and Aji Amirillo Chilli sauce

Norwegian Salmon smoked and blackened with Cajun spice and Rooibos tea served with grilled fennel, fire roasted beetroot and Aji Amirillo Chilli sauce


  • 300 g Norwegian Salmon Fillet
  • Cajun spice
  • ¼ cup semi coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  1. Combine above ingredients, generously season the top of the fillet and keep the rest of the mixture for future use in any chicken or seafood dish. Open two bags of Rooibos tea of good quality and sprinkle on top of the spice. Rest for 1-3 hours. 
  2. Using cold smoke, with wood of apricot or other fruit trees, smoke the fillet on a non-stick mat for 20-30 minutes, without cooking the fish. Let it cool down and rest, while prepping the garnish.


  • Brush 2 whole beetroots with oil and season. Wrap in foil and cook on the side of the fire. Watch that you do not get them too hot as they are cooking in themselves with concentrating flavours and could burn easily. Once cooked and cooled down, peel and cut into cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and season. 
  • Trim and blanch baby fennel. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Grill over hot coals and set aside.

Aji Amarillo Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Aji Amirillo Chillies
  • 30 ml oil
  • 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic – In a pan-roast chillies with oil, bay leaf and garlic
  • 2 eggs, boiled hard (7-10 minutes) and peeled
  • ½ cup water 
  • 10 ml salt
  • 5 ml mustard
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup sour cream – combine all of the above in a food processor and liquidise till smooth.


Make a fire with good wood. With the fire underway, arrange the prepared garnishes on the plate. When there are some coals, but still a bit of a flame, use a “braai mat” on top of your grill. Melt a bit of butter. Lift the fish and place it crust down onto the mat until a nice colour is achieved. Turn over and crisp up the skin. Serve on garnished plate. Drizzle with Aji Amarillo sauce and sprinkle some chilli salt on the plate.

Photo courtesy of photographer, Marius Henning
  1. Mac & Cheese Stuffed Chicken served with Rooibos-infused & Brafia BBQ Garbanzo Beans, Brinjal Chips, Fire Roasted Butternut, and Deep-fried Leeks


Whole chicken, fresh – debone the chest cavity out, legs and wings bones intact. Season meat side with Brafia Gin Rub and set aside for stuffing.


  • 40g butter
  • 20g flour
  • 250 ml milk
  • 100 ml cream
  • Salt and pepper and pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 bunch leeks – trim roots, slice white section and wash thoroughly. Thinly julienne darker top section, rinse, dry and deep fry at 160 C till golden and crispy.
  • 250 ml grated cheese
  • 250 g macaroni – simmered with salted water till soft.


  1. Sauté sliced whites of leeks in butter, add flour and cook for 1 minute, add milk and cream in steady stream while stirring to dissolve the flour. Bring to a simmer, season and cool down. Add the grated cheese and add to the cooked Macaroni.
  2. Fill the deboned cavity of the chicken with the mixture and tie up so that it stays inside while cooking.
  3. Cook hot and fast 150 – 160 ºC with an offset fire in your fire oven of choice till cooked to an inside temp of 72 ºC.


  • 500 g garbanzo beans (chickpeas) soaked in water overnight – cook till tender in 1.5 l salted water with 2 bags Rooibos tea and set aside.
  • 100 g butter
  • 250 ml Brafia Braai Master Sauce – froth butter and toast garbanzo beans till golden brown, add sauce and cooked till glazed
  • Butternut, peeled, halved, seeded and seasoned – add some fresh herbs, drizzle with olive oil, season and wrap in foil. Cook on side of fire till tender. Brown over coals if colour is not great yet.
  • Brinjal – thinly sliced, deep fried till golden brown, seasoned.
  • Cut and remove strings around the chicken and arrange all the items for serving.
Photo courtesy of photographer, Marius Henning
  1. Flaming Rooibos Moonshine Crème Brûlée


  • 500 ml fresh cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 80 ml sugar
  • 3 bags Rooibos tea – extract tea flavour with 300 ml boiling water, remove bags and simmer over low heat till concentrated to 50 – 60 ml 
  • 90ml sugar – for caramelizing on top of brûlée


  1. Heat cream in a saucepan while dissolving the sugar, add concentrate of Rooibos, sieve liquid and pour into 150 ml ramekins. 
  2. Preheat oven to 150 ºC. Place ramekins in an oven pan and fill with hot water till half of depth of ramekins so they can cook in the water bath without curdling. Cover with foil, pierce top and bake for 30-40 minutes. 
  3. Once it is set like jelly, remove from bath and cool down.

Flaming Rooibos Liqueur

  • 250 ml high proof white alcohol of 50% or more i.e. Moonshine 
  • 2 Rooibos tea bags
  • 80 g pure honey
  • 75 ml evaporated milk or cream

Method: This process carries a high risk of igniting! Please take care!

  1. Add the Rooibos tea bags to the alcohol in a rice or slow cooker. Let it simmer for no more than a couple of minutes while covered. Boil it too long and all the alcohol evaporates. 
  2. Bring any fire or match close by and you’ll have an inferno… Set aside to cool completely with bags inside, far away from an open flame.
  3. Use 150 ml of Rooibos alcohol and combine that with the honey and evaporated milk/cream. Shake well and refrigerate.


  • Finish all plating and decoration for 6 ramekins. Have the remaining Rooibos Moonshine handy. Use the extracted Rooibos tea bags as garnish with some fresh flowers.
  • Pour the Rooibos Cream Liqueur into appropriate serving glasses and place on plated plates ready to serve once the brulee’s have been caramelised.
  • Spoon 15 ml of sugar on top of each set custard. Roll ramekin in hand to spread sugar evenly.
  • Lightly spritz the sugar with a tiny bit of water. It helps to prevent loose hot bullets of sugar blowing onto you while burning the tops.
  • Hold the ramekin with one hand and burn the top evenly with the gas torch while turning the bowl so to allow the sugar to cover the top completely and evenly. The colour should be dark caramel but not bitterly burnt. Keep the gas burner going on one side.
  • While the sugar is still hot, add a dash (7ml) of the Rooibos Moonshine on top and set it alight.
  • Send to the table while aflame, taking care not to burn yourself or your guests…

Recipes courtesy of Corné “Borries” Bornman

Rooibos’ robust flavour pairs well with roast meats like beef, lamb and venison, as well as earthy, vegetarian dishes and salads. 

Post your Rooibos Braai Day creations to