Sunday, January 18, 2009


"Potjiekos"(poy-kee-kos) (directly translated as pot food) is a traditional stew made in South African in black three-legged cast iron pots on open-fires in the outdoors.  

(The above beautiful photo found on a South African lodge website -

Making "potjiekos" come from long ago, from the veld, from the times of the Great Trek in South Africa.  Even in those times it became a unique culinary art using whatever was available whilst in the veld and far from civilisation.  It is a meal in a pot.  

Ingredients: Anything goes.  Traditionally a variation of potjies, such as : venison, poultry, seafood, lamb, beef, green bean, pumpkin, tomato, quince etc, etc, etc.  No rules, no specific ingredients, but up to the "potjie"-chef to prepare the best, most unusual and the most tasty result.

Today it has become a traditional outdoor social event - never made on your own, but made together with friends and family and never in a hurry.  "Potjiekos" is an event of being together, laughing together - trying out new recipes, competing with each other to see who can make the best ever "potjie".  A truly South African culinary event. 

A "potjie" or a few "potjies" of all sizes and shapes are always part of any 4x4 adventure, camping adventure of holiday or when going on a bush holiday. In these pots main meals are prepared, breads baked, deserts made, traditional "mieliepap" made ( a porridge made from maize), breakfast made, actually anything you can think of.  I remember my husband complaining on one of our first trips to the bush about this heavy pot that we have to take with - at the end of the holiday it was number one on his list for future outdoor adventures.  
Even my UK son-in-law bought a "potjie" for them during their last visit to South Africa - and went home with a recipe book as well. Waiting for the UK summer to hear about their "potjiekos" meals!

Pots are available in many sizes - all depending on the amount of people you have to feed. 

In a previous blog pictures were included of the "potjies" without legs - flat bottomed, which is usually used for baking bread.

"Potjiekos" competitions is big in South Africa and annually many competitions are held at festivals, school bazaars or at camping resorts during the popular holiday periods. Every family are sure that their recipe is the best!!
I also had quite an experience some years ago at a school "potjiekos"-competition.  My lamb "potjiekos" recipe I believed was the best ever - all my friends and family believed that my "potjie" will win.  My son and elder daughter decided to enter as well, but only with a very small pot.  They asked for my recipe and believing that they will never be able to prepare a better meal than me, I gave them the recipe.. and guess what happened??  They won and I had to be satisfied with second price!

There are many recipes and quite a few recipe books, but usually the recipes are traditional family recipes passed on from one generation to the other and usually each generation changes the recipes a bit and try to improve on the recipes.  

My special recipe: - LAMB POTJIEKOS with DUMPLINGS.
(Serves : 6 - 8)

1,7 kg Lamb shanks or combination of lamb shanks and lamb neck
2 large onions - sliced
1 green pepper - chopped
2 tomatoes - peeled and finely chopped
250g peeled small baby carrots
250g fresh button mushrooms
250g fresh green beans - sliced / broccoli / baby marrows sliced
700 g baby potatoes (do not peel)
2x large potatoes - peeled and cubed

350ml white wine mixed with equal portion of water

2 teaspoons fresh origanum 
salt and pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
Crushed garlic to taste

2 cups of cooked rice

Size 3 or 4 potjie
A few bricks to lift the potjie

Hints for the best ever potjie:  
- a big warm fire
- a good bottle of South African wine for those preparing the potjie - a good potjie can take quite a few hours to prepare
- cast iron maximum temperature mitts - to handle the warm lid
- wooden spoon
- very good family or friends 

Prepare a big very warm fire.  
At first the pot will stand with it's legs  directly in the fire with lots of coals underneath to warm up the pot.  
Have a small extra fire on one side - these coals will be needed once the cooking starts.  Actually a good idea to have a small extra fire going all the time.
Warm the pot with only olive oil in the bottom of the pot until very warm.
Brown the meat in the oil. 
Add the onions,  green peppers and garlic - stir with wooden spoon.
Add the herbs and spices.
Add the tomatoes.
Now the big secret - add the 2x large potatoes which has peeled and cubed - these potatoes will provide a nice thick sauce.
Another secret - now the half of the fluids namely the wine/water mixture can be added ....... very little fluids at a time and preferably SLOWLY pouring it on the side of the pot over the wooden spoon- main secret, never allow the pot to cool down.  Add slowly and and this stage you can still stir the mixture.  Put the lid on the pot.
Lift the pot by putting the legs on bricks and take out some of the coals.
The pot must now only simmer.  Stir now and then to ensure that it does not burn at the bottom.  "Potjiekos"-experts will always listen to the pot - it must  cook slowly and softly!! Add extra coals if needed.
After about two hours of a few glasses of good wine, a lot of stories and jokes - time to test the meat.  The meat need to be soft and tender.
Next step:
Place the pot again directly in the open fire and add more coals.
Add the rest of the wine/water mixture in the same manner as above - slowly without cooling down the pot.
Put the wooden spoon away - from here on you are not allowed to put the spoon into the pot again. NB! No stirring allowed again until serving the "potjiekos".
Place the rest of the vegetables in layers on the meat mixture in the pot. Whole unpeeled baby potatoes at the bottom, then the baby carrots , green vegetables and last the mushrooms.  
Ensure that there is enough fluids in the pot to cover the vegetables. If not add fluids in the same manner as above.  Put the lid on the pot.
Lift the pot again onto bricks and ensure that it cooks slowly.
Cook for about another hour until the vegetables are done.

At this stage the "potjie" is ready to be served.  It is usually served with rice.

I prefer to first add dumplings to my dish.

Dumplings recipe:

3 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
120 ml butter / margarine
+/- 250 ml cold water or mixture of equal parts of cold water and milk

Sift dry ingredients together
Rub butter/ margarine with fingers into the mixture 
Add water slowly into the mixture - "cutting" the water into the mixture with a pastry blender.

Put spoon fulls of the mixture on top of the "potjiekos". Ensure that there is enough sauce in the pot otherwise add more fluids in the same manner as before. 
Put the lid on and cook for another 1/2 hour without lifting the lid.

ENJOY this unusual and very tasty meal.

Regards from me until next time!!

 (Mr L - I can't wait for you to try out my "potjiekos" recipe next summer !!)

For more recipes and ideas herewith a few books available - there are naturally many more books on this subject and also many recipes on the internet.


Debbies-English-Treasures said...

That`s amazing, I so wish that I could have a taste!
I like the fact that is a comunity thing... where everyone joins in the fun.
My mum was born in Africa "Angola", and I love to hear all about her African upbringing.
Debbie Moss

P.S- Hope you are feeling much better, since you had the knee operation.

Judy said...

And what time is dinner? Can I bring something? I hope you are feeling better and I'm glad you had a fun time with your daughter. She is so special.