Potjiekos is a South African stew that is literally translated as “Small pot food.” It is usually cooked in a round, cast iron, three-legged pot known as a potjie, which is a descendant of the Dutch oven introduced from the Netherlands to South Africa in the 17th century and found in people’s homes and villages across southern Africa.
To heat the pot, small amounts of wood or charcoal, or, if fuel is scarce, twisted grass or even dried animal excrement, are employed. A potjie is a social pastime, with guests generally engaging in fireside conversation while the potjie cooks for three to six hours. A potjie is frequently served with rice, spaghetti, or something similar.
The recipe itself is straightforward and simple to prepare, with few ‘rules’ but hundreds of variations. When done correctly, a “potjie” requires little to no supervision and almost cooks itself. As a result, you will have more time to enjoy the company of your friends and family while preparing the food.
Origin Of Potjiekos
Potjiekos, pronounced ‘poi-key-cos,’ literally means ‘pot meal.’ A variety of items, mainly meat and vegetables, are piled in a round cast-iron pot and cooked over open embers. This cooking style dates back to the 1500s and is synonymous with South African food, surpassed only by the ever-popular braai.
The potjie and the customary manner of cooking arrived in Africa in the mid 1600s, along with the first explorers, who utilized these cooking vessels solely on their treks into the interior. During this time, tribal Africans saw these pots and, seeing their practical benefits, sold them for animal hides and other commodities, thereby replacing clay pots used for cooking.
These pots were known as “Putu” pots among African tribal tribes (corn meal pots). As a result, practically all cultures in Africa utilize the potjie today, and it has withstood the test of time.
When making a potjie, it’s vital to layer the components. Meat should be added first and properly packed. When the meat is almost done, whisk in the onions, garlic, herbs, and a liquid-like stock, such as red wine.
The vegetables should then be placed on top of the meat in the order of their cooking periods, more liquid should be added, and the meat should be left to cook. It is best not to stir a potjie until it is ready to serve.
To start a fire, use either charcoal or wood, and make sure the heat can be controlled. Once the potjie is cooking, this will be accomplished by adding or removing embers. Because a potjie must cook for several hours, it is critical to start the fire early.
- 4 tbsp knob of butter or oil
- 1 chilli pepper fresh
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 500 g pack of fresh mushroom whole
- 1 kg stewing beef bone on and cut in chunks
- 500 mg sugar beans, red kidney beans, white kidney beans, haricot beans, black-eyed beans pre-soaked overnight
- 4 carrots, and other seasonal vegetables of your choice roughly chopped
- 12 baby potatoes
- 2 tins sweet corn (mealies) creamed
- 500 ml beef stock
- 50 mixed herbs
- 1/2 cup red wine optional
- Braise onions and mushrooms in butter and flavoured salt.
- Add chili and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add beef, return the lid and let it steam for 5 minutes.
- Add carrots and potatoes and other vegetables. Cover and let it steam for 5 minutes.
- Add beans, sweetcorn, 500 ml beef stock, 50 ml mixed herbs and ½ cup red wine (optional).
- Cover pot and leave to cook for 20 minutes.
- Keep covered and simmer for 1.5 hours, monitoring to ensure that mixture does not dry out.
- Add the fresh mushrooms about 20 minutes before serving.