How to make a Potjie (68/365)

A potjie (pronounced poi-key) can refer to both the cooking vessel and the food for this oh-so-typical South African tradition. Sometimes the meal is referred to as potjiekos (poi-key-k-os); but you can use either term and be understood. It translates roughly to ‘small pot food’. A potjie pot is typically a three legged cast iron pot. They come in numerous sizes; with the largest capable of holding up to 30 L!! The typical ‘family size potjie’ is usually a #4 and holds around 10L. You can find a lot more info on the history and traditions here.

This ‘How To’ guide is by no means the definitive guide to making a South African potjie. It is however’ John’s definitive guide to how to make a venison potjie. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s never come between a man and his potjie methods! This is one of two posts I have done for CookSister’s Braai the Beloved Country.

What you are going to need:

  • 1 well seasoned* potjie pot
  • Potjie lid-lifter or old dishtowel
  • Long handled wooden spoon
  • 4-5 hours worth of good coal producing wood
  • Old shovel to move coals

Ingredients – please note all measures are approximate!

  • 3kg kudu neck; meat cut off the bones (Preferably from a kudu you shot and butchered yourself**)
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 5-8 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 large potatoes, chopped, peeling optional
  • Mixed herbs, e.g. rosemary, coriander, basil
  • ~250ml red wine
  • 2 tblsp tomato paste
  • 2 frozen tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (not pictured)
  • 1 punnet mushrooms, optional (not pictured)
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup peach chutney, preferably home-made
  • 2 beef-stock cubes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Potjie ingredients

1. Start by preparing all your ingredients. This makes things easier a little later once you’ve had a few beers!

2. Set up your potjie station. You’ll need somewhere to have a feeder fire; and then somewhere where your potjie pot can sit, undisturbed.

Potjie station

3. Take some time to pre-heat your pot. It helps if you’ve nicked some old plough discs from farming friends. They are ideal for a potjie station!

Potjie pot heating over coals on an old plough disc.

4. Add a bit of vegetable oil; when it’s hot, add the onions and fry them until translucent. Then add the garlic and brown the meat. Add the Worcestershire sauce. Allow to simmer while you mix up the other flavours. Mix the herbs, red wine, chutney, stock cubes, chopped frozen tomato, tomato paste and a bit of water and mix well. Add to the meat and onions and allow the mixture to simmer gently for approximately 2 – 4 hours. Get invite your friends round and share a few beers.

To ensure that the heat is even, spread the coals around your potjie pot in a circle. To make the heat more intense; make the circle smaller. For a less intense heat, make the circle bigger. Move the coals from your feeder fire, to the potjie fire using your old shovel.

What a potjie is really all about. Fairy lights, beers, wood smoke, talking crap about all sorts of everything.

5. Start adding in the veggies in order of which ones take the longest to cook. Starting with carrots and potatoes and ending with peas, mushrooms etc.

6. Serve your potjie with rice, pap (mealie meal), couscous, or even pasta. We usually serve it with pot bread. A nice robust red wine goes well with potjie, especially venison potjie.

Leftovers….!

7. Enjoy!

* By seasoned I don’t mean ‘salt and pepper’. I mean it has gone through repeated heating and sealing with fat or oil.

** Any meat will do though tough cuts are well suited to potjie because of the long cooking times.

11 thoughts on “How to make a Potjie (68/365)

    • Same here! When J and I started to get a bit more serious, we went camping together. He cooked me a lamb-leg potjie; under the stars. Sounds so romantic right? What if I told you I DROPPED the lamb into the sand and we spent about an hour washing all the grit off it before we could cook?

  1. Sounds like you know your stuff when it comes to potjie making. Have never tried making one myself (I blame apartment living), but love it whenever I get to taste it.

  2. bill says:

    I live in the USA. I want to make this. I got the pot and an outdoor fireplace. I think I got the idea. Wish me luck.

  3. daddy dave says:

    I live in Texas in the U.S. Just got a best duty Potjie and I’m excited to use it soon. We are having a re-enactment of an 1800 “mountain man” rendezvous and the potjie will be perfect to use in our camp!

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