Traditional South African cuisine was shaped by the influences of dishes brought to the country in its early days. Slaves who accompanied the Dutch to South Africa, Indians who worked on the sugar plantations and the Portuguese from countries like Mozambique, all played their part in developing the outstanding cuisine that it is today.
One ingredient that has stood out above all others in this process. This, of course, is the Chilli. It is ubiquitous and used to make dishes like Chakalaka, Potjiekos, Chilli bites and biltong. Furthermore, not many braais ( barbeques) go by in the country without the appearance of Chilli in a rub, marinade or as a hot sauce.
This section explores recipes that show where Chillies are used in South African cooking.
Recipes from South Africa
Let's make a Potjie !
In common with the ever-popular braais ( barbeques ) in South Africa, Potjiekos is another firm South African tradition. When translated from Afrikaans, it means “ small pot meal”. And in a nutshell, that is what it is. Potjiekos is a meal slow cooked outdoors in a cast-iron three-legged Dutch oven. It is usually cooked over charcoal, although gas is also sometimes used
Having a potjie ( pot), as it is called in South Africa, is a social occasion that lasts anything from three to six hours ( and sometimes even longer). Guests and family sit around the fire while the food is cooking, engaged in lively conversation with , no doubt, a beverage or two . Having a potjie has been a tradition in South Africa for a long time.
A typical potjie consists of meat or poultry, vegetables, and Dutch Malay spices. The ingredients get layered on top of each other based on how long they take to cook. Some liquid is added ( usually beer or similar), and the food is cooked slowly over a low burning fire. In the process, the food becomes tender and full of flavour
There are many recipes in South Africa for Potjies. Indeed, every fan has their own. Some might contain spicing, and others not. It is all a matter of personal taste. Dutch Malay spicing is not as spicy as the Curry powder used to make a Durban curry. It is based more on sweet spices like fennel and cardamom. However, as stated, a Potjie is very much what you want from it. After all, while not traditional, some fantastic Indian curries can be made using this technique.
The following is a recipe from South Africa for a spicier Potjie using Chillies.
Spicy Malay lamb Potjiekos
To make this Potjie, besides the pot itself and the stuff needed for the fire. You will need the following
- Stewing Lamb - one kilogram ( cut into chunks)
- Onions – two large ( finely sliced)
- Potatoes – four medium ( peeled and quartered)
- Tomatoes - two large (finely chopped)
- Dry white wine – 250 ml ( optional . Lamb stock will also work)
- Garlic – 3 cloves ( crushed)
- Freshly grated ginger – 60 grams
- Chillies – four African birds-eye (or equivalent)
- Coriander leaves – 60 grams
- Vegetable oil – three tablespoons
- Cloves – Four whole
- Bay leaves – four (dried)
- Dried apricots – ten (optional)
- Cinamon sticks -two whole
- Ground Cumin – one teaspoon
- Turmeric – one teaspoon
- Ground coriander - one teasppon
- Chilli powder – one teasppon ( 0r more according to taste
- Green Cardamom pods – three
- Salt – to taste ( but about ½ a teaspoon)
Making the Potjie.
Make the fire and once the coals have become slow-burning, place the Potjie on top
- Add half the sunflower oil . Bring the oil to frying temperature.
- Add the meat. Allow the meat to brown on all sides. Remove from the pot and keep to one side
- Add the remaining oil and the onions. Cook the onions until they start becoming translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for two minutes, stirring continuously
- Add the cloves, bay leaves, Chillies, cinnamon sticks, cumin, turmeric, cardamoms, coriander and Chilli powder
- Cook for two to three minutes, stirring continuously
- Add the meat back to the pot. Coat with the spices and onions
- Add the tomatoes and white wine
- Close the lid of the Potjie and cook for about 90 minutes. Check now and then. Stir at these intervals
- Now add the potatoes and apricots ( if using) . Sir well. Replace the lid
- Cook until the potatoes are done and the meat is fall-apart tender. This should take anything from half an hour to forty minutes.
- Add the chopped coriander. Stir in
- Remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves
It should be unnecessary to add any more liquid while the potjie is cooking. However, if it seems to be getting dry, add water or stock
Serve your potjie with pot brood (pot bread) , Chakalaka, Putu pap ( South African equivalent to grits) , three bean salad, Slaphakskeentjies (South Africa onion salad) or any other side dish or salad you like. Another excellent bread for serving with Potjiekos is Cheese, Chilli and onion bread.
More reading : The use of Chillies in South African cooking
Kwang Cho from Pacific Grove, California, USA, / CC BY 2.0 / via Wikimedia Commons