Braai time with The Cousin: Barry Hilton lights our fire
South Africa’s favourite Cousin rustles up four side dishes for a fireside feast.
Barry Hilton never needs an excuse to make a fire — and apart from a decades-long career as one of South Africa’s best-loved comedians, he has also built up the hugely popular, tongue-in-cheek ‘Nou Gaan Ons Braai’ brand.
The South African caught up with Barry at his home in Hermanus, which he shares with his wife, Sandy, and youngest son Jack, 10. Barry is also sharing the recipes for his favourite braai dishes: A festive layered salad; sweetcorn fritters; and his go-to potato and beetroot salads.
Hermanus catch-up with The Cousin
What do you love most about Hermanus?
Hermanus is fantastic. It’s good for us and we love living here. We enjoy the year-round holiday vibe and having access to so many family-friendly outdoor activities. We’ve made some amazing friends, and are assured of always having lots of family and friends visiting. The only complaint is our fridge is never big enough for all the visitors.
And what do you like the least?
Hermanus being an outlying area for couriers. Sending and receiving parcels is not always as quick as we’d like. A courier pigeon would be quicker.
What was your experience of the hard lockdown? Was there a silver lining?
Lockdown was tough in terms of work — all my public and corporate shows were cancelled because venues were closed. It was a shock not to be able to earn an income. Initially we couldn’t even sell our online merchandise as couriers were not operating.
A couple of artists charged for online shows but that didn’t feel right to me and it’s also really bizarre telling jokes to a camera, especially since my shows don’t have a script and aren’t rehearsed. I feed off my audience and so, instead of charging for online shows, I did a couple of live chats, and responded to people’s comments and requests at no charge.
It was fun and I enjoyed the company from the outside world.
The one thing we loved about lockdown was spending so much time together as a family. I thought I’d go nuts without being on stage or having people around, but it was special beyond words spending so much time with Sandy and Jack. I’m surprised they didn’t get sick of me!
Are you doing shows again — anything exciting coming up?
I’ve started doing a couple of corporate and small shows. People do seem nervous though and venues are hesitant to book shows. During lockdown I did try a few other options and two are working well — MyFanPark and CousinApproved.
MyFanPark allows people to book me to deliver a personalised video message for friends or family. CousinApproved is a platform giving companies the opportunity to submit their products or services for review or a shoutout.
What were you most looking forward to this festive season?
My son Tyler visiting from the UK.
Any new developments with ‘Nou Gaan Ons Braai’?
Couriers are working again so people have been able to stock up on Nou Gaan Ons Braai merch at mycousin.co.za. There are some really lekker designs and slogans like ‘My dad’s a chop’ and ‘Star Wors’.
A couple of years ago I told a story about how long it takes South Africans to braai. I think it’s funny because it’s so true! The clip on YouTube (scroll down to view it) has had more than a million views and inspired me to bring out the Nou Gaan Ons Braai range. The products are high quality and we deliver worldwide.
Which part of the braai ritual do you love most? And least?
I love planning what we will braai. I usually change my mind at least five times before I start the fire. I also love sharing the braai with friends and family, and enjoying their company. What I don’t like is doing the dishes afterwards.
When did you make your first fire?
I’m 64, I can’t remember when I made my first braai, but I know it was burnt or underdone — I’m a slow learner. I can tell you when I made my last braai — it was last night.
Have you taught Jack how to braai yet?
Jack is a keen braaier and often makes a braai for his mum when I’m away. He’s a pro at making a fire and also quite an expert on the gas braai. We have a super little portable braai called a Bon Braai and we take it everywhere — even to Jack’s surfing and BMXing events.
What do you consider your triumph as a braaier?
Following my wife’s instructions. Seriously, it’s fillet steak, medium, but only if I prepare it.
What brings out the worst in you as a braaier?
Being told to hurry up because my wife is hungry.
What’s your best braai tip?
Have more than one option. We have an inside braai, an outside braai, a gas braai, a Bon Braai and a pit barrel cooker. We can braai anywhere and in any weather!
RECIPE: Barry’s festive eight-layer salad
“Usually we have a couple of salads with a braai, but if we make this one, no other salads are needed!” Barry’s wife, Sandy, says.
“This colourful salad has eight layers and is topped with a mayonnaise-based dressing. You could get more creative and add avocado or olives, but this is how we like it.”
3/4 head iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and core removed
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3/4 cup chopped red onions
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup mayonnaise – Barry uses Hellmans
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper
Use a glass bowl to layer the salad in, seasoning each layer to taste.
First chop the lettuce and place in the bottom of the bowl in an even layer.
Add the tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, peas, eggs, bacon and cheese, layering them closer to the edges of the bowl if you choose. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar. Stir well and spread over the top of the salad, “sealing” it all the way to the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle a bit of cheese or bacon on top.
Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
RECIPE: Barry’s sweetcorn fritters
You may need a side order of Eno’s with these, Barry says, as he always eats way too many!
5ml baking powder
1 tin sweetcorn
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
One wheel of feta
Mix together all the ingredients, shape into fritters and pan-fry in hot oil.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve.
RECIPE: Barry’s easy beetroot salad
No braai is complete without beetroot and Barry has found that cooking beetroot in the microwave works perfectly for this recipe.
1kg beetroot, cooked and diced
4 boiled eggs, sliced
One packet of olives
Diced feta to taste
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Chopped chives and/or parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and lemon juice
Mix all the salad ingredients together, then mix the dressing ingredients together to taste and toss through the finished salad.
Season and serve.
RECIPE: Barry’s home-style potato salad
This potato salad is so simple that Barry and Sandy have never bothered to write down the quantities. Just make as much or as little as you want.
Onions, finely chopped
Boiled egg, finely chopped
Parsley and chives to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut potatoes into small blocks and boil. Once at room temperature, add the other ingredients. Season to taste.