Is there anything that can be as satisfying and warming as a stew on a cold winter’s day? I think not.
A traditional South African potjie ticks all the boxes. Potjiekos (pot food) is made in a cast iron 3-legged pot, on the fire, outside. Now that is a real win.
Recipes are handed down from one generation to the next and almost every South African family I know has a secret recipe tucked away in their arsenal.
Seeing that I am not technically South African born, I had to resort to finding a great recipe in one of the many, and I mean MANY, recipe books I own. You see, I collect recipe books that tell a story. That take you on a little trip before enticing you with all their deliciousness.
Justin Bonello does just that in his Road Tripping recipe book. It’s an epic journey through South Africa, discovering all its hidden treasures and phenomenal local produce. It really is a must have. I’m sure you can see why we would just love a book like this right?
The focus is on out-door braai cooking. Recipes featured range from mouth-watering deserts to simple breakfast ideas and slow cooked meals like a potjie. It’s not really vegetarian friendly, however there a few recipes here and there for non-meat eaters too.
I have adjusted Justin’s recipe, well taken liberties with it really. So here it is, one of the most delicious and fragrant potjies I’ve ever had. The combination of fennel, blue cheese and pear is simply sumptuous!
What you will need:
2kg Oxtail, opt for free-range, grass-fed if you can
1 cup of cake flour
2tbs of ground ginger
2tbs of ground coriander
A bouquet garni of: (dry and toasted whole spices placed in cheese cloth and tied closed)
3tbs of coriander seeds
2tbs of fennel seeds
2tbs of star anise
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 large leeks sliced
4 celery sticks sliced
4 large carrots chopped
1 thumb sized fresh ginger grated
4 garlic cloves chopped
2 cups of chicken stock
3tbs of green peppercorns in brine
4 fennel bulbs, whole
2 cups of dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
4 large, semi-ripe pears, peeled and left whole
4-5 large sweet potatoes
1/2 a cup of crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley and zest of 1 lemon
What to do:
Lightly season the meat and sear on a braai grid over moderate coals.
Mix together the flour, ground ginger and ground coriander, dust the cooled oxtail pieces with this mixture.
Heat the olive oil in a potjie over moderate to hot coals then saute the leeks, celery carrots, ginger and garlic. Once softened, remove from the potjie and set aside.
Place the oxtail pieces in the heated potjie and brown the meat on all sides, you may need to do this in batches. Control the temperature of the potjie so that the flour doesn’t burn.
Once you have browned the oxtail pieces add the bouquet garni of dry toasted spices. (You can toast the spices before hand in a dry pan until they are fragrant and warmed through and the fennel seeds start to pop).
Then add the chicken stock, peppercorns, fennel bulbs and white wine. Top the potjie off with your sautéed vegetables and gently simmer over a medium heat until the meat is soft. About 4 hours.
While the potjie is simmering away, wrap your sweet potatoes in tin foil and place around the hot coals with about an hour to go.
With 40 minutes to go, add your whole peeled pears. Do not stir the potjie at this point, you do not want your pears to turn into pulp. We’re not making baby food!
Once your pears are tender and cooked through you are ready to serve!
Cut open your beautifully cooked sweet potatoes, sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and serve with a pear, fennel bulb and perfectly cooked oxtail. Finish off your plate with parsley and lemon zest, the perfect addition to cut through the richness of the oxtail.
The combination will astound you, its out of the ordinary and well worth the effort. My family was licking their fingers and going back for seconds and thirds.