A potjie feast with family and friends is the perfect way to end the day. It is simple, traditional and hearty! The term potjie means “little pot”. Many like to add the word “food” at the end to turn “potjie” into “Potjiekos”.
Traditionally, it is a dish that is cooked outside over coals. Though it is all in one pot, it is not a stew. The reason is that it is prepared using little liquid and it is never stirred.
Stews are comprised of ingredients all mixed together. Potjies are ingredients that are layered yet never stirred. There are different sizes of potjies to use just pick the size that best fits your family or event. The fun is in building (or preparing) the dish.
To make a proper potjie it should be cooked in around three-legged cast-iron pot, though flat bottom cast-irons can be used as well. This unique cookware is called the potjie, not the food within. It is heated over a long period of time over wood or charcoal.
Traditionally, this would he be outside but they can also be made on your stovetop in the comfort of your own kitchen. The pots need very little supervision as they will practically cook themselves with just a little help from you. Since the pot is made from cast iron with a heavy lid, it operates as a pressure cooker once the lid is placed on top and it is cooking.
Potjie food can be made from nearly any meat but we prefer mutton in ours. Mutton is the perfect meat for slow cooking as the process makes the meat tender and full of a wild and untamed flavour.
Try our Mutton and Vegetable Potjie. The mutton in this recipe should be placed on the bottom of the pot as it will need the longest cooking time. The potjie is prepared to put ingredients that need the longest cooking time on the bottom of the pot-usually the meat.
Any type of starch may be used in the recipe as well. Potatoes, rice or pasta are great examples. Here we have chosen potatoes, but you can substitute any other type of starch.
WARM POTJIE RECIPE
- 1 kg of mutton shank, cut into slices
- 15ml cooking oil
- 200 g onions, sliced into half rings
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 500 ml stock (lamb or beef)
- 500 g potatoes sliced
- 250 g green beans
- 250 g of carrots, cut into chunks
- 250 g mushrooms, sliced
- 250 g tomatoes, skinned and chunked
- 5 ml fresh oregano chopped (you can use 2 ml of dried oregano instead)
- 1 ml Paprika
- 15 ml fresh rosemary (5 ml dried rosemary can be substituted)
- Heat cooking oil in the potjie. Get the pot very hot.
- Add first layer-the mutton. Add onion and salt and pepper with the meat. Sear until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent. This helps to lock in the flavour and juiciness of your mutton while it cooks.
- Once your meat has browned but not cooked all the way through, pour in the beef stock.
- Add second layer-vegetables. Layer them in the pot according to type. Potatoes first, carrots second, green beans third, then the mushrooms fourth. Pack them in densely on top of the meat.
- Add the third layer-the sauce and the spices. Spoon the tomatoes on top of the vegetables then add the oregano, paprika, and rosemary.
- Place the heavy lid on your potjie then allow it to simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours on the stove top. If you are cooking it outside it could take 2-3 hours. Do not stir during cooking time. If you suspect that more liquid may need to be added, you may do so by lifting the lid slightly and pouring the liquid in along the side of the potjie and never in the middle. The beauty of the potjie is that the cast iron lid, when left alone, will create its own pressure cooker method that will cook the dinner beautifully when left unattended.
- To check the potjie. Listen to it “talk”. This means putting your ear down and listening for bubbling inside as it cooks. You should hear a bubble every second or two as the ingredients simmer. If you hear rapid bubbling, that is cause for concern as it means that your potjie is boiling and you only want it to slow cook over moderate heat. If this is the case then simply adjust your heat until you hear the appropriate bubble every second or two. It will take about 10 minutes for the potjie to respond to the heat adjustment.
- The potjie is done when the ingredients are tender.
- Serve and enjoy!
Potjie is great on a cold winter night or any other night of the year. Try this super easy but mightily delicious recipe, your family will praise you later.