Well before my teenage years, my father took it upon himself to teach me the ways of the potjie. Not only did he patiently demonstrate this fine art to me once again this Easter weekend, but he generously agreed to share it with YLC readers. It truly is the best potjie I’ve ever tasted.
Potjiekos literally means “small pot food” and it’s a stew made up of meat, vegetables, starches (rice and/or potatoes) and spices. It’s traditionally slow-cooked in a three-legged, round, cast-iron pot and its origins can be traced back to the Voortrekkers (pioneers who moved further inland from the Cape). At the end of each day of travel, the Voortrekkers would add any recently-shot game into a large pot of existing meat and vegetables, which was then placed over a fire to simmer. Today, cooking a potjie is a social occasion where everyone partakes in the chopping, cooking and consuming of the dish whilst gathered around the fire, sipping Castle Lagers or wine and generally talking about rugby.
A potjie pot
2 Cloves of Garlic
3 Sprigs rosemary
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
2 Large glasses of wine (one for the potjie and one for the cook)
50ml Olive oil
5 Big leaves of cabbage
6 Medium potatoes, chopped
1 Medium butternut squash, chopped
4 Carrots, chopped
1.25 kg Lamb
Rice and Chutney (everyone in South Africa uses Mrs Balls brand) to serve
- Pour the olive oil into the pot and heat over the fire. Add garlic and onions and fry until golden brown. Remove the onions from pot and set aside.
- Add seasoned lamb and brown on high heat, stirring regularly. Add the cooked onions and then layer the potatoes, butternut squash and carrots. Toss in the sprigs of rosemary, water and wine and then cover contents of the pot with cabbage leaves (you don’t want to forget this step as it ensures that the moisture is sealed in). Close the lid of the pot, reduce the heat (or move it further from the flames) and allow the pot’s contents to simmer for three to four hours.
- Daddy Smart emphasizes that there is nothing worse than a burned potjie, so make sure that the lid of the pot fits properly, don’t open the pot or stir too frequently. If you do want to occasionally check up on it, see that there is enough liquid in the pot and that it’s bubbling slowly.
- Once everyone is ready to eat and the chef has finished his wine, open the pot and give its contents a quick stir before serving on a bed of rice with Mrs Balls chutney.
Serves a large, extended family for two days.