Mmmmmm potjiekos. Some foreigner I encountered on my travels long ago referred to South African food as bland and specifically noted potjiekos as a good example of how bland it can be. I was rather unhappy about this unfriendly statement. I agree that some South Africans enjoy their food bland or over-salted, but we also have some awesome cuisine with influences from Africa, Europe and Asia. And potjiekos falls into the latter.
Potjiekos literally translates as pot-food. I know, the name is actually quite bland, but the food shouldn't be. And if someone ever ate bland potjiekos then the person who made it is to blame and not the meal. This food is traditionally cooked in a round-based three-legged cast iron pot. It's a slow stewing process and can be made using just about anything. It is incedibly popular in South Africa and I grew up with several regional and national potjiekos competitions taking place all the time.
The preparation of the meal, like a barbecue, is a social affair. You start by building a fire and watch it turn into coals while enjoying a drink with friends. When the heat is right the pot, well-oiled, gets put on the coals. A fair amount of onions and garlic and in my case ginger gets cooked in the hot pot using a large wooden spoon. The meat of your choice (or other vegetables if you want to make a veggie potjie is added and browned. Next comes your liquids— water, wine, or stock can be used. And then some flavor. My potjie was a chicken curry so I made a mixture of curry powder, turmeric, chutney, and some dry white wine. Other ingredients follow— potatoes or sweet potatoes (in this case sweet potatoes worked wonderfully) carrots, beans. Whatever you feel like. The pot gets covered and everybody relaxes around the fire while it cooks, checking often to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot.
When everything is cooked the pot gets moved from the fire and everyone helps themselves to the delicious stew. We served ours (which we made for Father's Day) with some brown rice and a fresh summer salad Olivia made. If I may say so myself, the chicken curry potjie, which was my father's recipe with a couple of minor tweaks made by me, came out superb. Nothing bland about it, the sweet potatoes worked perfectly with the curry and the chicken was super tender (I used thighs).
For dessert Alexander made another South African favorite, malva poeding, no idea what that translates into, but it was awesome. He baked the pudding in a muffin tin so everyone got their own little dessert. He also added a bit of brandy to the sauce and sprinkled some nutmeg over everything. It was incredible and as I type here my mouth waters for it. And he did it all using an Afrikaans recipe book while I was out teaching!
South African food bland? Bah!