Raleigh, North Carolina — Potjie, pronounced “potchee” or “poyke”, is one of my favorite meals and cooking styles. Potjie literally translates as “little pot of food” and is something we learned from the large South African community in Israel. Traditionally cooked in a 3 legged cast iron pot over coals, you can make the most delicious stews and make dinner an experience everyone will love.
Potjie is generally very forgiving. The low and slow cooking method makes for the most delicious meals and any recipe I pull up is usually followed very loosely. So if you’re not a great cook, you can still impress!
Seasoning your potjie
First of all, make sure to season your jar. This is just like any other cast iron pan, except probably bigger and heavier. If it’s your first time using your pot, scrub it with water and steel wool. Rinse and wipe with vegetable or canola oil. Remove all racks from your oven and preheat to highest temperature (mine was 550 degrees). Place the pan in the oven and bake for at least 30 minutes.
There will be a lot of smoke so I recommend turning on the fan and possibly opening some windows. After 30 minutes, pull the pan out and carefully spread another layer of oil. I used a microfiber cloth for this step and topped it up with a spray oil because I didn’t want to burn myself. Another 30 minutes in the oven and my pot was ready to roll.
Prepare your stew
Choose your favorite vegetables. Keep in mind that they will take a long time to cook, so while they are delicious, something like zucchini will melt into thin air. Heartier vegetables are preferred. Some of our favorites are:
- Roasting potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- pumpkin squash
- Green beans
Choose your favorite protein:
- Pieces of beef
- Chicken thighs (skinless but with bone)
Line the bottom of your pot with a little oil. Cut your vegetables and proteins into large chunks and throw them into the pan. I like to add a large can of diced tomatoes and some cooking wine, maybe half a cup. Red wine with red meat and white wine with chicken. The low and slow cooking method means you don’t need a ton of liquid.
Season with salt, pepper and whatever herbs and spices you like. I usually add a few bay leaves, allspice, fresh rosemary, and thyme.
This is where nice weather will work in your favor. Go to your fire pit and pour in a pile of charcoal. Light your coals and when they are ready, carefully place your potjie on top. Use tongs to place a row of coals around the rim of the lid and pour yourself a glass of lemonade.
Cooking takes 2-3 hours. You will be able to hear the cooking inside. When you’re ready for dinner, use tongs and a hot pillow to lift the lid. Grab a ladle to scoop out all the goodies and enjoy!
Nili Zaharony is a Go Ask Mom contributor. She is the mother of 3 little ones (5, 3 and 6 months old) who constantly keep her sharp.