The Potjie

Originally a Dutch cooking method, the Potjie (pronounced ‘poy-key’) was brought from the Netherlands to South Africa in the 17th century.

Since then, the South Africans have incorporated into their cooking and created an array of recipes that tantalize the senses.

“Potjie” refers to both the cooking method and the vessel. The Potjie pot is typically a cast iron, 3-legged, witches-cauldron-looking thing. The ingredients vary according to taste. Potjie cooking takes anywhere from 4-8 hours, and encourages everyone to sit around the fire, chat, and have a few beverages.

We usually start by making a pot at 3pm or so – as soon as we arrive at a camping trip. This way, everyone will be ready for their second dinner at midnight!

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By the time the dish is ready, everyone is merry, no one is a stranger, and everyone is hon-grae!

This last pot was made on New Years Eve 2012. You can add/remove any ingredients you like, swap the meat for something else. The company, singing around the campfire, laughs, and lovely people are what made this dish delicious.

Feeds 10-15 people.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Large brown onions
  • 8 pieces of lamb neck (can be substituted by beef or chicken)
  • 500 grams of cubed beef (can be substituted by lamb or chicken)
  • 1.5 Kg butternut squash
  • 0.5 Kg sweet potato
  • 10 medium carrots
  • 500 grams of button mushrooms
  • 4 Tbsp bisto gravvy (or homemade gravy if you have it)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • 1 bottle of a rich red wine
  • 20 green beans (can be omitted for a pure Paleo recipe)
  • 500 grams of couscous (can be substituted by 1kg of cauliflower rice)

Cooking Method:

  1. Dice your onions and chop all your vegetables into cubes. No need to be exact, the cubes will be so soft by the end that they will barely hold form
  2. Get your fire started, and, on a medium sized flame, pop your potjie on the flame to preheat
  3. Cut a piece of fat from your meat, and use it to grease up the bottom of the pot
  4. Drop in the diced onions, simmer until clear
  5. Add all the meat, and let it brown for a few minutes
  6. Once the meat has browned nicely, add the squash, potato, and carrots
  7. Mix your Bisto gravy with some wine and all the herbs in a small jar, shake until dissolved and consistent
  8. Add the gravy/herb mix
  9. Add most of the bottle of wine in, until the ingredients are on the surface of the liquid
  10. Pop the lid on. The mixture should be boiling within 15 minutes. If it boils sooner then your fire is too high, if it doesn’t boil in time then your fire is too low. Adjust the flame accordingly
  11. Sit back with a few friends and nurse that fire for 4-6 hours
  12. Add wine to the mix if the levels of the liquid get low
  13. About an hour before serving, add the green beans (don’t forget to cut the ends off) and mushrooms to the top of the mixture. Pop the top back on and let it simmer for another hour. These softer ingredients would turn to soup if added sooner, so we add them in later on
  14. For the sake of ease, we made couscous in a teapot on the fire. If you have some pre-blended cauliflower rice then this will make for a great paleo dish!

Potjie

Notes:

  • The key with the potjie is the flame. There is very little actual cooking involved once all the ingredients are in, the most work will be nursing the flame
  • Never stir the ingredients in the pot. Simply use a wooden spoon to keep everything from sticking to the sides. This ‘digging’ motion between the ingredients and pot’s side will ensure that nothing sticks and burns
  • Err on the side of time. If a pot burns, all the ingredients go to waste, so keep it simmering on a low flame for hours
  • Enjoy the company, don’t rush the pot. Although the meal is important, the people around you are what make this laborious dish worth it!

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