Lamb Neck Tomato Bredie
I’ll never forget the look on my wife’s face the moment she saw me standing at the altar on our wedding day. As she came into view, all her nerves and stress leading up to the moment instantly melted away. She had a look of pure joy on her face and love in her eyes. I’d like to say that it was a once in a lifetime look, but over our years together it’s a look I’ve come to call, ‘bredie eyes’. Yup, she’s obsessed with tomato bredie and she’ll eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So when I told her I was doing a lamb cut in this month’s feature, she told me I can make whatever I want as long as it is tomato bredie.
Growing up in Durban I didn’t eat much tomato bredie. It’s not because I didn’t like it, but more because bredie is a Cape Town thing. It was only when I moved to the Cape that I began to appreciate this slow cooked stew, with its silky tomato sauce and fall off the bone meat.
In traditional Cape Malay cooking there are many types of bredies, but for me the lamb tomato bredie is the king. It’s the perfect balance of meaty goodness, aromatic spices, and sweet and tangy tomato sauce. In my opinion a great bredie takes time to come together but the effort is worth every bite.
To make a kickass lamb bredie, the kind that reminds me of The Far Side’s ‘Mary had a little lamb’ comic (Google it), I’m using lamb neck. The neck is another one of those cuts that was seen as undesirable for a long time. It’s fatty, tough and it takes a long time to cook down. But like so many things in life, patience has its rewards.
The neck has some of the best marbling on the lamb and it’s full of collagen that breaks down during cooking to create a luscious sauce. After a few hours cooking, the meat just melts off the bone, and the amount of flavour that’s packed into neck is hard to beat.
There are many ways to make a tomato bredie, and I’m sure mine is not entirely traditional but who cares? I want big flavour and I also want to incorporate my favourite flavour – braai. To get this I’m sealing the lamb over a seriously hot fire to build up a caramelised flavour crust. If you’re feeling lazy you could do this in a pan but ask yourself this – what would Mary prefer? The Roma tomatoes are also getting the braaied treatment to give them a smokey, charred flavour. You could use regular tomatoes but I like Romas. They’re meaty with little seeds and they make great sauce.
Another key flavour step is the spice paste. This is the flavour base, so take your time with it and show it some love. It’s really simple to put together but the crucial step is frying it off until it’s aromatic. A tomato bredie is traditionally more aromatic than spicy but a little kick never hurt anyone.
I like my bredie with just a touch of chilli hum, just enough to know it’s there. When it comes to herbs I like to keep it simple with just a bit of thyme. I am a sucker for thyme’s earthy flavours to complement the fresh tomato.
The trick to a great bredie is layers of flavour. Don’t just chuck everything in the pot and hope for the best because you’ll probably end up with a one dimensional pot. The final piece to this puzzle is what to serve it with? The choice is really up to you but if you want my recommendation, it’s got to be a Malay style roti. They’re crispy, flaky, lighter than an Indian roti and hard to make. I get mine from Mariam’s Kitchen in Cape Town and I don’t think it gets any better. Until we meat again, cheers!
BRAAIED LAMB TOMATO BREDIE
Prep time: 60 mins
Cook time: 3hrs
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 anchovies, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) ginger, finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) curry masala
1 Tbsp (15 ml) paprika
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin powder
2 tsp (10 ml) coriander powder
2 large onions, chopped
oil, for frying
2 kg lamb neck
salt and pepper, to season
800 g Roma tomatoes, halved
2 C (500 ml) good quality beef stock
1 tin (410 g) tomato purée
1 tin water (use the purée tin to measure)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
½ C (125 ml) chutney
4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ C flat leaf parsley, chopped
Start a fire first so that the coals are ready to go once you’ve done the kitchen prep.
Combine the tomato paste, garlic, anchovies, ginger, curry, paprika, cumin and coriander together in a bowl and set aside.
Add a little oil to a medium-sized frying pan and fry the onions over a moderate heat until browned. Add the spice paste and fry for 2 minutes while constantly stirring to cook off the spices.
Using a sharp knife, slice the fat of the neck in half to prevent curling when braaing. Season the lamb neck with salt and pepper and then rub with a little olive oil. Braai the meat over hot coals for about 3 minutes a side or until the outside has caramelised. Braai the tomatoes cut side down until they begin to char.
Transfer the onion and spice mix to a large flat bottomed potjie pot or casserole dish. Roughly chop the charred tomatoes and add to the pot. Add the beef stock, tomato purée, water, cinnamon sticks, thyme, bay leaves and chutney and stir to combine. Lastly add the meat and ensure that it’s submerged in the liquid. Put the lid on askew and simmer for 2 hours while stirring occasionally. After 2 hours add the potatoes and simmer for another hour with the lid off.
Garnish with chopped parsley, serve with rotis and dig in.
See other recipes in the Meet the Meat series.