Top picks: Author Jean Nel

Top picks: Author Jean Nel

The best-selling author of Braai the Beloved Country, Jean Nel, is back this month with his second book: Cooking with gas, filled with delicious recipes and ideas on getting the most out of your gas braai. Although Jean is arguably a braai ‘purist’, favouring wood, he says the popularity of gas braais can’t be ignored. So braaimaster Nel shows you how to cook anything from a roll of boerewors or a steak, to smoking salmon and slow-cooking the “most amazing pulled beef you’ve ever eaten”. We chatted to this braai veteran about his foodie favourites.

Cooking with Gas. Jacana Media.

Cooking with Gas. Jacana Media.

“I’ve been cooking on open fires for a long time but when I moved from cooking socially to catering, my braai became a work tool. So I moved to gas”, explains Jean. “Gas braai sales rose 40% the last two years – they are ideal with all the load shedding going on!” Jean was frequently looking for gas braai inspiration in the recipe book section of book stores and only came across American or Australian titles. Hence – the first in its kind in South Africa, gas braaiing done the South African way.

What would your 10-year-old self say about the job you do right now?
“At the age of 10 I was a rather avid fire maker – I grew up on a farm. I watched my mother braai the most incredible open fire dishes. If anybody then said that I would turn into a best selling author I would have said ‘let’s make the fire bigger!’.”

What’s the absolute best thing and the absolute pits about your job?
“The best is to braai in exotic locations; the worse is…early mornings. 3.30am sometimes.”

Page 144 & 145

Jean in action.


What is a food aroma you love?
“Smokiness of meat on a fire.”

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?
“Braaied porcupine…gave it a try.”

Is there is food trend that you wish would go away?
“Deconstruction…it’s a *** trend.”

Favourite spot for lunch?
“Overgaauw restaurant – Sunday lunches can’t get better.”

Where is your go-to place to shop for food or ingredients?
“Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse.”


Left: Fish and chips. Right: Aubergine pepper stack


Favourite ingredient to cook with right now?
“Sumac as I have been braaiing Middle Eastern food for a long time.”

Favourite food or wine hero?
“Michael Oliver.”

If you were a flavour of ice cream, you would be… (and why?)
“Strawberry: I love berries!”

If you had R1000 to spend, where would you go or what would you cook?
“Norwegian salmon sides on a plank.”

Page 133 Salmon

If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life it would be?

“Lamb cutlets, trimmed French style and braaied by my friend Andrea Foulkes (owner of Dish catering).”

Your last supper would be (don’t forget the drinks!)
“Braaied crayfish washed down with French champagne…then i can die!”

Cooking with Gas is published by Jacana and will be on the shelves from 20 March.

Photography and publishing: Russel Wasserfall.

Seafood Potjie.

Seafood Potjie.