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Potjie, The Traditional South African Pot Stew


Potjiekos are a South African stew, traditionally, made in a three-legged cast iron pot. They date back to the time when the Afrikaans people started to migrate from the Cape Region. Known as ‘Voortrekkers’, they formed into convoys of wagons of family and friends. The convoy provided support, protection and a community as they ventured into potentially hostile and uncharted territories.

Living off the Land.

As the convoys were constantly on the move, food supplies were always scarce. Vegetables were virtually non-existent and whatever could be foraged off the land was used. Hunting became the best source of obtaining food. Antelope, Guinea fowl, Rabbits, Hares and Wart hogs would be used to provide food for the convoys. Consequently a ‘bush cuisine’ evolved which had to be simple and easy to prepare with limited resources.

Potjiekos fitted this description well. A stew would be made of the latest hunted animal and vegetables found. The stew could be stored in the pot and reheated at the end of each day on the fire. As the stew was eaten new meat and vegetables would be added and so the process would go. As a focal point the pot over the fire would bring the community together to share food and thoughts of the day just gone and the day ahead.

The pot could also be used to make bread if the convoy had flour and salt.

The meal was hardly a culinary delight but it was practical and hearty in difficult conditions.

Potjie renaissance.

Potjiekos of today would bare little resemblance to those of the early Voortrekkers in terms of ingredients. In fact,today, there are numerous books and recipes of various variations on the theme. There are vegetarian potjiekos, boutique potjiekos with specialised ingredients, alcoholic based potjiekos, curried potjiekos and the list goes on. There are potjie chefs who have secrets recipes and potjiekos competitions and cook offs.

The truth is that anyone can make a potjie and that the ingredients are not that important if the food tastes good. Today potjiekos are a popular social occasion. A chance to meet up with friends, have a few beers and cook on an open fire in the outdoors.

A typical Potjie Recipe
6 pounds Oxtails cut 2 ˝ inches thick pieces
· 10 slices Bacon cut in 1 inch piecs
· 1/2 cup Flour seasoned with salt and pepper
· 1 litre Beef stock
· 1 can tomatoes
· 1Bay leaf
· 6 Black Peppercorns
· 1 Bouquet Garni
· 6 large Leeks, chopped coarsely
· 2 large Onions, chopped coarsely
· 6 large Carrots, chopped coarsely
· 20 Button mushrooms
· 1 cup Red Wine
· 1/2 cup Sherry
· 1/2 cup Cream
· 2 tablespoons Butter
· 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
· 2 tablespoons Crushed garlic

Preparation

Dry oxtails with paper towel.

Put seasoned flour in a Ziplock bag, then add the Oxtail and shake to coat with flour.

Heat butter and olive oil and saute bacon pieces.

Remove bacon and brown Oxtail in resulting fat, remove and drain.

Finely dice 4 of the carrots. Coarsely chop the onions and the leeks.

Add the finely diced carrots, leeks, onions and saute until softened

Add Oxtail, bacon, bouquet garni, bay leaf, peppercorns, garlic, tomato sauce, red wine, sherry.

Bring slowly to a boil and cook slowly for 3 - 4 hours.

1 hour before serving cut the remaining carrots into 1 inch pieces, add them and mushrooms and continue cooking slowly.

Just prior to serving, add cream and stir in.

If you want to thicken the sauce mix some cornstarch with the cream before adding.

Submitted by:

Maurice Canwell

Maurice Canwell is a writer on Food and Drink. He is a regular contributor to http://mycrockpotrecipe.info/







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