What is a potjie or potjiekos, you are most probably wondering? Potjiekos is a traditional stew that is native to South Africa, made in a small cast iron, three legged, black pot over an open fire. The pot itself is called a potjie.
The name “potjiekos” is an Afrikaans word meaning small pot food basically. What sets potjiekos apart from traditional cooking methods is the fact that it is cooked outside. Potjiekos is uniquely South African and is an uncomplicated, friendly food, to be enjoyed by rich and poor, young and old, city-dwellers and country folk, needing only one’s imagination when it comes to selecting the ingredients. You can have a seafood, chicken, lamb, pork, beef, you name it potjie. What differs it from a stew is the fact that the meat and other ingredients are packed in layers. Usually the meat goes in first, then the onions, garlic, herbs and spices are added. Finally some red wine or stock and stir. Now add the vegetables, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut, carrot etc. Add more liquid to ensure all veggies are well covered and cook for several hours. Most important – Do not stir again until the food is cooked and ready to be served.
I, unfortunately do not have a real potjie but that is not for long. I am going to South Africa in a few weeks and intend bringing one back with me. Growing up all my neighbours in Goodwood, a very Afrikaans neighbourhood, had one and I was lucky enough to be invited over for a steaming hot, delicious potjie quite often. I have fond memories… Now you are most probably saying – but what about me, I do not have one and am not going to South Africa in the foreseeable future, so what can I do? Fear not, this dish can be easily recreated in a good, large, cast iron pot. And if you do not want to cook it over hot coals in the yard in the middle of winter, during a snowstorm, once again, no problem – the stove will do the job, Yes, it will not be an authentic potjie and some of the true Afrikaaner forefathers must be turning in their graves at my suggestions, but at least you will be able to enjoy this delicious stew – most probably one of the tastiest potjiekos recipes, simply devine!
2 kg / 4 pounds oxtail, cut into pieces (can used beef shank if you do not have oxtail )
6 slices thick bacon cut into pieces or lardons
1/2 cup flour
4 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
6 medium leeks chopped
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
6 carrots, 3 chopped coarsely and 3 finely diced
20 button mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dry the oxtail pieces with a paper towel
Put the flour in a plastic zip-lock bag, add the meat and shake to coat it
Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat and sauté the bacon
Remove bacon and set aside
Brown the oxtail evenly and set aside
Add the finely diced carrots, leeks and onions and cook until soft and translucent
Add the oxtail, bacon, bouquet garni, peppercorns, garlic, tomato paste, red wine and sherry
Bring slowly to a boil and cook on a gentle simmer for 3 hours, covered
1 hour before serving, add the remaining carrots and the mushrooms
Season with salt and pepper
Just before serving, add the cream and stir
If you wish to thicken the sauce, mix some cornstarch with the cream before adding.
Serve with rice, mash or samp.