Looking for a taste of Africa so spice up your dinner? Why not try our delicious recipe for making the South African stew meat dish, potjiekos? It’s tasty, nutritious and simple to prepare!
For any foodie, one of the best things about travelling is being able to sample a variety of mouth-watering foods from across the globe. The shared experience of cooking for others and eating together is such a big part of culture and connection. Here at Sense Earth we believe that learning about the foods of a particular culture is important to gaining a real understanding of that culture, because it can tell us a lot about a community and their history.
Though we may not be able to prepare the food in an entirely authentic all the time from home, we love to bring back the recipes we try on our travels as memories of where we’ve been, the people we met and the things we loved! Today we will be focusing on a popular stew meat dish from South Africa, it’s delicious, nutritious, and simple to prepare. We hope you will join us and see why so many absolutely love this meal. Don’t forget to let us know what you think!
The History of South African Potjiekos
Potjiekos /ˈpɔɪkiːkɒs/ which in South Africa is translated to mean ‘small pot food’ or ‘food made in a pot’ is a meal in which you can opt for a meat based on what is available to you, through our research we found lamb, oxtail, ostrich, chicken, and lamb neck all being used as the main source of protein in various potjie dishes. The dish is traditionally served outdoors and prepared using a cast iron Dutch oven. It was brought over from the Netherlands in the 17th century and can now be found in the homes of people across southern Africa. Usually, the pot is heated using wood or charcoal, but people have been known to use other kindling materials like twisted grass or even dried animal dung at times where fuel is scarce.
There is no single right way or set of ingredients that are requirements for making South African potjiekos. Instead, the dish is cooked with whatever is most readily available and affordable. The recipe traditionally includes some form of meat, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Rice or potatoes are commonly used as the starch for the meal, alongside vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, green beans and baby marrows.
Though similar to other stews, the distinctive characteristic of Potjie is that it is not stirred during the cooking process and when it is dished up this is done with one scoop from the bottom up. It is also recommended to avoid lifting the lid to check the dish too much as this caused the pot to lose heat and moisture. These steps help all of the components of the meal to keep their texture and shape while becoming beautifully tender and aromatic.
Our recipe is as follows, but feel free to change things up based on what you already have in your kitchen!
- Vegetable oil (enough to cover the base of your pot)
- 4 cloves Crushed Garlic
- 2-3 Diced Onions
- 1kg Lamb Chunks
- Potatoes, Carrots and Pumpkin, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 1-2 Handfuls of Green Beans
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 2 tsps Crushed Ginger
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp Lamb Seasoning Mix
- 1 Can Diced Tomatoes
- In a bowl, coat the lamb in the seasoning mix, or use your own personal blend of tried and tested lamb seasoning.
- Heat the oil in the pot by placing it on your fire (or, if not manageable for you, a stove).
- Add the coarsely diced onions into the pot and fry until aromatic and translucent.
- Add the seasoned lamb into the pot with ginger and garlic and brown the lamb on all sides.
- If at any point you feel the lamb is burning or on the brink of burning, add a splash of water.
- Add your salt and black pepper to taste (it’s best to only add a little, you can always go back in with more later).
- Once the meat is sufficiently browned, add in your tin of diced tomatoes and bay leaves (though not essential, bay leaves help to provide a smoother taste and bring all the flavours together).
- Simmer on a low to medium heat for approximately one hour.
- Add the potatoes and carrots and cook for around 30 minutes before adding the rest of your vegetables, add more water if necessary
- Add additional seasonings to taste.
- Gently shake the pot to ensure there is enough water at the bottom, avoid stirring.
- Let simmer for another 30 minutes or until you are happy with the consistency
- To plate, serve with rice or pasta and scoop from the bottom upward.
We really hope you decide to try this dish out! Preparing potjie is typically a shared activity, with family and guests getting together and talking while the potjie cooks so why not try using our recipe together with the family?