Potjiekos” is a traditional Afrikaner dish hailing from South Africa. It originated with the Voortrekkers in the 1800’s and is still widely prepared and enjoyed in South Africa today. It is a simple dish, easy to prepare, with few ‘rules’ but hundreds of variants. When done properly a “potjie” needs little to no supervision and practically prepares itself. It thus allows you time to enjoy the company of your friends and family while preparing the meal. “Potjiekos”, translated would mean ‘Little Pot’ (potjie) ‘Food’ (kos) and although it resembles a stew it is not a stew and is not prepared like a stew.
The Science and Procedure:
Cooking oil is heated in a pot, usually of cast iron, until very hot. Meat and normally onions as well is then browned by searing it in the oil. This locks in the juiciness of the meat. The meat is not cooked until down, just seared and browned. Vegetables are then packed in layers on top of the meat spreading each kind evenly throughout the dish. It is ‘sealed’ with a starch traditionally potatoes cut in slices but it can be pasta, rice or anything else. This traps the steam around the vegetables and actually steam cooks them. “Potjiekos” is cooked slowly over a moderate heat source. Traditionally this would be outdoors over coals but today can be done anywhere over any heat source. The dish is slow cooked and the way it is built creates a small pressure cooker effect because the cast iron lids are heavy. The steam build up insides has to become substantial before it starts to leak past the lid.