Posted By Kerri

Potjiekos (according to Wikipedia) translates as “small pot food” and is the traditional South African method of cooking outside using a small, cast-iron, three-legged pot. The pot sits on the ground and heat is provided by a small fire that’s lit under the pot (or potjie).

I’ve never had potjiekos before but have heard a lot about it. With Stephen’s Aunt and Uncle visiting, it was the perfect opportunity to dust off the pot and light the fire. Stephen’s Mom has a couple of potjiekos recipe books which we paged through but, in the end, decided to do our own thing. We settled on lamb as the meat and started with the usual onions, celery and garlic as the base. Nutmeg, cloves and bay leaves provided the aromatics with butternut squash and baby onions going in later. There was also dried fruit (South Africans are OBSESSED with adding fruit to savoury dishes which can be a challenge for haters of the sweet and savoury combination) and both potatoes and rice (they’re also obsessed with double or even triple carbs, which I didn’t find so challenging) to finish things off.

So, it’s basically a simple stew or casserole? Well yes, I suppose it is but it’s quite a difficult thing to cook. First off things need to brown so the fire needs to be fierce and then you want the stew to simmer for a long time so the heat needs to be kept constant. Stephen opted to keep some charcoal burning on the braai that he could add when things looked like they were cooling down. I think technically that’s cheating, according to what I read in the cookery books but it seemed entirely necessary to me. There was also a lot of discussion over whether the pot should be stirred or whether ingredients should just be added in layers according to their cooking time. We chose to stir.

And what of the taste? Well, it did taste a lot like a simple stew or casserole (apart from the fruit, I definitely don’t put fruit in my casserole) but that’s no bad thing. More than that though it was a really enjoyable way of cooking. We all sat outside while Stephen tended to the pot and, much like the fondue, it was all very sociable. The one thing that really stood out for me was the addition of rice to the pot. I normally serve and cook rice on the side but cooking it with the meat meant it worked as a natural thickening agent and it soaked up all the lovely flavours from the rest of the pot. Something I’m definitely going to try now we’re home and back to cooking indoors again.

Jan 9th, 2011

2 Comments to 'Potjiekos'

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  1. Jonathan said,

    Ah Potjiekos – I remember them from my days in South Africa. They were always a lot more satisfying to cook than to eat. Very sociable and a good excuse to drink a lot of beer.

  2. Stephen said,

    Jonathan, the process is definitely a big part of it. One of my dad’s cookbooks defines cooking times something like “one beer later, add the tomatoes”, etc. I always remember liking the eating part too, but sometimes it can seem like an accident that it turns out well.

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