To make a magnificent t-bone steak for one, you will need:
One t-bone steak (with a bit of fat)
Freshly ground black pepper
This is the shortest ingredient list in the long history of this column.
While there is only one human activity more social than eating together, solo meals are part and parcel of the veld experience. Whether camping, hunting or fishing a person needs the pleasure of a good meal, easy to cook and a joy to eat. Since our ancestors made their way out of the Sterkfontein Caves a nice piece of well-trimmed mammal grilled over a fire has been, and continues to be, the only way to go.
The big deal here is the careful limitation of the fat load. Not all of it is removed since part of this cooking procedure demands it. As sodium is a very good chemical to limit, I prefer to leave my meat unsalted. All I use is a liberal application of coarse black pepper, freshly ground.
This brings us to the fire. You can make a traditional three-stone hearth, using branches you forage yourself and taking care to prevent a veld fire. Alternatively you can do as I did and make use of the brilliant, expensive but unequalled technology of the multi-fueled MSR Dragonfly (and no, this isn’t an advertisement). I own and paid for this beast myself. Rumour has it that the design is US Army military spec, which may explain the multi-fuel capacity. I have tried it on Jet A1 which produced one hell of a lot of soot. I now stick to benzene, which burns almost as clean as gas.
Operating the stove requires a full understanding of the owner’s manual, otherwise you get a pillar of flame second only to the dramatic effects mentioned in Exodus. But what you do get as a veld cook is brilliant high heat unaffected by altitude and a highly variable throttle which winds all the way down to the slowest slow simmer.
OK. Enough with the technology. Time to eat. Set up your heat source of choice and place a simple frying pan over the flame. Let it heat up for three or four minutes then hold the lightly peppered steak vertically in the pan, fat strip down. A few minutes of this will render the fat, producing a useful lubricant for the rest of the braai procedure. This uncivilized caveman likes his meat very, very rare. Normal diners should grill the steak for two to three minutes per side, turning it once. Don’t pierce the meat with a fork; rather use the fork or knife as a lever to flip the meat over.
If by chance you happen to find a tomato in your backpack, cut it in half and grill it cut-side-down in the juices left. A tiny pinch of brown sugar in the middle of each hemisphere cuts the acidity without overtly sweetening the tomato. This is pretty damn straightforward. But cooking can be real simple. All it takes is good planning and the very best raw ingredients. – David Basckin