Potjiekos is a dish that is often served at South African gatherings. While recipes vary, it consists of a meat, often lamb, vegetables, garlic, and herbs that are all slowly cooked in a cast iron pot (called a potjie pot) over hot coals without being stirred. One recipe, pasted below, can be found here.
- Oil to cover the base of your potjie
- 1kg Lamb (on the bone)
- 2 Onions, chopped
- Chunks of Potatoes, Carrots, Baby marrows and Green Beans
- 2 tsps Ginger and Garlic paste
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
- 1 400gr can of Diced Tomatoes
- A few Bay Leaves
- Place the pot on the fire and heat the oil.
- Add the onions and fry until soft and translucent.
- Add the lamb and the ginger and garlic paste and brown on all sides. If the pot is too warm and the meat is burning, add a few tots of wine or water.
- Add salt and black pepper.
- When the meat is brown, add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaves.
- Put the lid on and gently simmer for approx an 1 hour.
- Add the potatoes and the carrots first and cook for about 30-40 minutes before adding the baby marrows and the green beans.
- Taste and add a bit more salt and black pepper if needed.
- Don’t stir the pot, but gently shake to ensure that there is enough liquid in the bottom and that it’s not burning. If unsure, add a bit more wine or water.
- Replace the lid and simmer for another 20-30 minutes
- Remove the pot from the fire and serve hot with rice.”
Families have different additions and techniques that make their version unique to them. The pots are often handed down for generations, as the cast iron absorbs some of the essences of the ingredients, adding to the flavor.
Where did Potjiekos originate?
The use of cast iron pots became popular from the Dutch settlers, Arab traders, and Portuguese explorers. These pots came in all shapes and sizes. African people were initially skeptical of the pots, as they resembled witches’ caldrons. The pots became popular, replacing clay pots, as the meats were able to be slowly cooked while keeping the food tender. They also kept the heat within the pot, allowing for the buildup of heat. This made it so less coal was needed to cook the contents.
This method was used with the Voortrekkers, a nomadic, Dutch group, escaping British rule, as well as other tribes, as it was an easy way for the nomadic people to cook while on the move. They were able to store the ingredients in the pot and then put it over a heat source when they stopped.
The cast iron pots are still used today to make potjiekos, and this dish can be seen at many traditional gatherings. It also is used to bring people together, as there are different competitions in which people make their own potjiekos, as many recipes have been passed down in families.
Because of the ease of creating a delicious and nutritious meal all in one pot, potjiekos aids in creating food security. There are many different ways in which this dish can be made and so whatever meats and vegetables that are available can be added. One pot also feeds everyone, and therefore the meat and vegetables can go a long way. This dish is not a full solution to food security across Africa but can be an aid in providing nutritious meals.