On Sundays in South Africa, you can smell these curried lamb skewers cooking over live fires throughout every neighborhood as families gather around the braai, an Afrikaans word that describes both the social event and the actual technique of grilling over a live fire. These sweet and savory skewers can be made with pork, beef, or lamb and are displayed in almost every South African butcher’s counter or grocery store, already prepped and marinated for convenience. Stateside, I make my own sosaties with boneless lamb and marinate them overnight when time permits. We love serving these to guests who visit our home for a braai, with a round of Springbokkie (a traditional peppermint liqueur shot)—the best conversation starter!
1/4 cup avocado or canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup port or dry sherry
2 tablespoons apricot jam or preserves, or District Six Apricot Chutney (See Below)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds lamb from a boneless leg, cut into 1-inch cubes (ask your butcher for kebab meat)
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups dried apricot halves
1 fresh bay leaf, plus 12 more for skewering
1 In a large bowl, whisk together the avocado oil, vinegar, port, jam, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, coriander, cornstarch, salt, and pepper until well combined. Add the lamb, onion, dried apricots, and 1 bay leaf, and gently toss to combine until the meat is fully coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
2 Thread the lamb, onion, apricots, and remaining bay leaves onto metal skewers, alternating between each ingredient until nothing remains.
3 Heat a grill or large grill pan to medium heat. Grill the skewers, turning occasionally, until the edges are lightly charred and the meat is golden or caramelized, about 4 minutes per side. Serve warm.
District Six Apricot Chutney
Makes heaping 1/2 cup
This chutney is what I use in my mom’s older recipes instead of buying Mrs. H.S. Ball’s Peach Chutney, a well-known South African peach and apricot chutney made with dried fruits, vinegar, and spices. I adapted it from District Six Instant Chutney from the book Cass Abrahams Cooks Cape Malay: Food from Africa by Cass Abrahams. Here, I use apple cider vinegar instead of brown malt vinegar. When I left for South Korea, I managed to convince my mom to give me her dog-eared copy that contained many of our family’s favorite recipes. The pages are stained with butter and flour, and the photographs tell a story of postapartheid life in the segregated Cape Town neighborhood known as District Six. The chutney is a staple in most homes, but it was not always as easy to find or affordable for home cooks without means. Cape Malay cooks have always been known for their resourcefulness, and this cheat chutney was probably first stirred up to replace the store-bought version as well.
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
In a jar, combine the apricot preserves, vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, and salt. Close with the lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Excerpted from South of Somewhere. Copyright © 2023, Dale Gray. Photography Copyright © 2023 by Dale Gray. Reproduced by permission of Simon Element, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.
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