FOOD EXPEDITIONS: Potjiekos – South Africa’s one pot wonder.

In South Africa, there are foods which take center stage at social gatherings. Potjiekos is one such dish.

The actual name ‘Potjiekos’ (pronounced poi-key-cos) means ‘pot food’. It dates back to the 1800s, to the ‘voortrekkers’ of South Africa, however, it is still prepared and enjoyed in South Africa today.

This one pot wonder brings South Africans together, and allows for lengthy visits, and delicious food.

The traditional South African meal is a stew-like dish made of ingredients such as potatoes, oxtail, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, onions and button mushrooms. The best meat to use for the potjie is stewing beef, however chicken, mutton, venison, and fish can also be used in the dish.

While potjiekos is much like a stew, unlike stews this dish is not stirred during the cooking process. The meal is only stirred when it is ready to serve.

As its name suggests, the dish is cooked over a fire in a three-legged cast iron pot, hence the name of the dish.

The potjie itself is not just about the ingredients – but also about the pot. There are specific ways a pot should be prepared before using it to cook.

The inside of the pot should be scoured with sandpaper, before being washed and then greased with fat. After use, the pot should be rinsed with soapy, warm water. The inside should then be oiled to prevent rust.

There is an art to cooking potjie and this involves putting the ingredients in at the right time, in the right quantities, and then waiting… While waiting, South Africans will socialize, enjoying the experience of each other’s company – and anticipating the delicious meal to follow.

When making a potjie, it is important to layer the ingredients. The first ingredient to place in the pot is the meat. This should first be sealed properly, before other ingredients are added. When the meat is almost cooked, garlic, onions, and herbs can be added.

Then ‘sauce’ ingredients can be put into the pot – for example, red wine or liquid-like stock. Vegetables can then be layered on top of the meat in the order of their cooking times. More liquid is then added and the potjie is then covered and left to cook.

This meal can literally take hours – even the whole day – to cook!

CREDIT: Omer Granot.

Making potjiekos is considered a bit of an art. However, anyone can learn to make a good pot of potjie. To make a simple beef potjie, you will need the following ingredients: olive oil, 2 to 3 sliced ox tails, 250g diced bacon, 2 large chopped onions, 3 to 4 large diced carrots,1 clove chopped garlic,1 can of peeled tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, bayleaves,1kg of baby potatoes, 300ml of good red wine and 250ml cream.

To begin, season the oxtail with salt and black pepper. Heat the potjie pot (a no.3 pot) and lubricate this with a drizzle of olive oil. Then, add the oxtail and bacon, and braze the meat.

Once the meat has been sealed, remove it from the pot and add the onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves and wine, before bringing this to a boil. Add the oxtail and bacon to the pot and season with salt, black pepper and thyme. Allow this to cook for about three hours.

After three hours, add the baby potatoes to the pot and cook for around 15 minutes. Then, add the cream and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Enjoy your potjie with a serving of brown rice and a side serving of vegetables.

WORDS: Heather Catherine Djunga.

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