South Africans are notoriously divided about the definition of a braai, not to mention how hot under the collar we get when our favourite pastime, the braai, is compared to open fire cooking methods employed by other cuisines. But things have changed, and South Africans are certainly now a little more amenable to experiment not only with the foods being cooked on the braai – occasionally conceding to braai something vegetarian – but also with the way they cook their meat, as well as the accompanying dishes they enjoy on the side. Fatty sausages are not always easy to cook on the open fire with all that fat sputtering and combusting into flames, but they can be done as well in a ridged skillet to control the heat and flames a little better.
This salad is ideally suited to accompany rich, fatty sausages made with lamb, or good quality Frankfurters. The freshness of papaya, married with the saltiness of feta and olives and a handful of fresh herbs, is an excellent foil for the richness of the sausages. A large platter of salad with enough sausages, and one basically needs nothing more for a full, satisfying meal.
Even though versions of this recipe made with watermelon have become something of a South African staple, my inspiration for this version came from the ever-glamorous Nigella Lawson, who adds red onions soaked in lemon juice to her watermelon, feta and olive salad. The red onion and chilli slivers in this recipe add a sharp contrast to the other ingredients. One could easily also use black olives, but these fat plump green olives are not quite as rich as black olives.
If you are flummoxed by your inability to find good old feta on the shelves these days, it is because South African producers now pay heed to the long drawn-out battle by the Greek nation – which they won – premised on the IP ‘Geographical Indications and Appellations of Origin’ that the cheese received in 2015. This means that South African cheese producers may no longer call their cheese ‘feta’, and chose to settle for the rather unglamorous term ‘modified cheese’ to describe their product. I guess we have no choice but to concur with what Shakespeare famously wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Ingredients for one large salad, which should be ample for 4 people
A selection of fresh or processed sausages, braaied on the open fire or in a skillet
½ large (or 1 medium) red onion, sliced through the length of the onion
Juice of 1 medium lemon
3 red chilies, deseeded and sliced along the length into very thin strips
1 large very ripe but firm papaya, peeled, seeded, and cut into large cubes
125 g creamy feta
10 large green olives (pitted if you wish)
4 stalks flat leaf (Italian) parsley, cut roughly
4 stalks mint, leaves removed
60 ml good quality olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Marinate the onions in the lemon juice – the longer they are soaked, the less sharp they will be, but it should be sufficient to leave them in the lemon juice while you prepare the other ingredients. If you are averse to raw onion, you could also rinse them in boiling water, which takes away much of their sharpness. Starting with the papaya cubes and olives, layer the salad attractively, and scatter over the onions, chilies, parsley and mint. Dot over the crumbled feta and finish the salad with a few teaspoons of the lemon juice (optional), a few generous glugs of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.