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South African Club of Windsor

Potjiekos Competition

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Each year we host a Potjiekos Competition (Also called Dutch Oven Cook off). 
 
It started in July 2001 and we try to change the venue every year. 
 

 
 
MORE ABOUT POTJIES AND POTJIEKOS
South Africans and Potjiekos | History:Potjies and Potjiekos | Potjiekos-The food itself | Curing the Potjie
 
 
SOUTH AFRICANS AND POTJIEKOS
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The Tri-pod pot or currently referred to as "Dutch Oven", is a typical African cooking utensil, dating back to the early 1800s. It retained its popularity and today is found in almost every South African household.
 
The poorest use it on open fires for all general purpose cooking, like frying meat, cooking water, making cornmeal porridge, etc. For the rest of the South African community, the "potjie" ("poy-key") is part of a national culture where it is used to prepare a very famous and popular traditional stew-type dish.
 
At most outdoor gatherings, private  BBQs, school rallies, fun faires, shows, rural restaurants, etc., you will find potjie-kos (directly translated = "pot food") being served. 

HISTORY: POTJIE’S AND POTJIEKOS

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Pronounced “poi-key” (pot) and “poi-key-cos” (pot food). The potjie is the pot and the latter is the traditional way of cooking that dates as far back as the 1500's. 

The potjie pot however dates back to the iron age when man learned to cast iron into vessels of different shapes for a variety of purposes. The pots during this time also developed a lot of mystery and romance due to the fact that they were very popular amongst the witches and druids of the time, who used the pots for their respective rituals and ceremonies. The potjies also bring to mind cannibals and the name “missionary pots”, which they are often called. 

It was during this era that the round belly three legged cooking pot developed and for all practical intents and purposes, became an ideal cooking pot that was designed to be used over an open fire.

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In the mid 1600's the potjie and the traditional way of cooking arrived in Africa, along with the early explorers, who used these cooking vessels exclusively, on their expeditions into the interior. It was during this period that the tribal Africans saw these pots and seeing the practical uses, traded these pots for animal hides and other commodities, replacing clay pots that were used for cooking. Among the African tribal cultures these pots became known as “Putu” pots (corn meal pots). As a result, the potjie is used extensively in Africa today by almost all cultures, and has survived the test of time. 

Over the centuries, the potjie has retained most of its original shape and traditional form because of all the age-old practical features, that are still applicable today. With modern technology and green sand casting, it is possible to produce today, this high quality cast iron cookware, that has become as popular as it was then, an essential cooking utensil. 

Poitjiekos has its origins dating back to the war between the Netherlands and Spain (1566-1648). It was during this time that the siege of Leyden took place and food was very scarce, that the towns people were forced to eat “hutspot” (hodgepodge) to survive. The town’s people all contributed what meager morsels they had at home, into a large communal pot and cooked it all together. Today in Holland, hutspot is still cooked at the annual commemoration day, of the “Siege of Leyden”. It was the Dutch who then took this way of cooking to Africa, when the explorer Jan Van Riebeeck set sail and landed at the “Cape of Good Hope” in 1652. Not only did these early settlers use the potjies for potjiekos, but also for baking breads using the potjies as an oven and always over an open fire. 

When trade to Africa increased, mainly by the Dutch East India Company, many new spices and herbs became available that further contributed to the evolution of potjiekos and has become a unique cuisine on its own.

POTJIEKOS - THE FOOD ITSELF

Potjiekos recipes

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Potjiekos is robust, full of flavors, very healthy, but it is also a friendly and very sociable occasion. Not only is potjiekos healthy food, but it is also healthy in that it causes one to relax, be happy and enjoy good company. Potjiekos is an experience all on its own!! - Potjiekos is really a group of good friends, a well seasoned potjie, a good beer or a fine wine, a warm fire, lots of time, fine food, herbs & spices, many tall stories and delectable aromas. Potjiekos is an event or a gathering where good friends get together and while cooking, share the chores, pass too much advise on the potjie’s (the central theme) preparation and contents, lots of laughter and a harmonious atmosphere - potjiekos is a social & culinary event and invariably no potjiekos recipe ever tastes the same! The pores in the cast iron capture flavors of past potjiekos adventures, which gradually get released into the potjie as the metal heats up. Most potjies taste better the next day after having “aged” overnight in the pot - but after all is said, the choice is yours as to when you choose to eat your potjie!! 

Potjiekos is SLOW cooking but healthy and fun cooking, in that the method and preparation preserves all of the vital minerals and vitamins that normally get destroyed with fast food. Because the potjie has a round belly, the liquid in the potjie will always be at the lowest point and this together with the cool heat and the round belly will cause the heat to be evenly distributed through the pot, thus preventing burning and allowing even cooking. 

Potjie is always cooked over a “cool” fire (or low on the gas range) and should take at least 1 - 2 hours to completely heat up the pot and its contents. Once heated, one has to listen to the pot as it should be cooking at a slow simmer ( a whispering, gentle gurgling sound should be emanating from the interior of your pot). Try to avoid taking the lid off the pot, except closer to the time when you are ready to serve as the domed lid is critical to the circulation of heat and steam within the pot. 

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Traditionally potjiekos is a stew, made either with lamb, beef, fish or poultry but always together with vegetables. Potjie is “built” in layers with the meat and hard vegetables at the bottom of the pot and the quicker cooking vegetables towards the top. Potjie needs lots of herbs and spices, that are best prepared from dry/ground material. The dry spices and herbs are mixed and blended to the cooks choice and will be directly related to the success and flavor of the potjie. 

This dry spice/herb blend must be mixed with care and thought about how you wish your potjie to ultimately taste. Evenly spread the dry mix between the potjie layers, where it will steam until the full aromas and flavors are released into the potjiekos. 

Potjie is never stirred while cooking - only just prior to serving, will you stir the potjie for the first time, blending all of the food and flavors together. After stirring , one may thicken the potjie to the consistency of your choice. Most important to remember is that vegetables create their own water and it is usually unnecessary to add any water to your pot to get it going, though if you feel that you do require a bit of liquid, use a cup of either sherry, port wine or beer. 

If you are cooking potjiekos over a fire, you may place coals around the gutter in the lid, the heat will “creep” through the metal to the apex of the domed lid, giving you an evenly heated top heat source. If cooking on the gas range, place the 3 legs over the burner and for larger pots, create a chimney effect by spanning aluminum foil around the outside of the legs (leave a 4" space open in the front so that you can see the flame). 

Always remember that when handling your potjie that it is heavy (the density and evenness of the casting allows for an even heat distribution and retention (an important feature of cast iron) and if full it will weigh even more - so careful handling using the galvanized metal handle with oven mitts (when hot) is very important. If handling larger potjies more than one bodies hands will be required to move it. 

Once the potjie is hot and cooking it is time to sit back and slowly start preparing the salads and/or side dishes. The side dishes may be prepared in smaller potjies or simply served in the smaller potjie pots. The very small potjie pots can be used for serving condiments or sauces - they are really very pretty.

CURING THE POTJIE
Most potjies come ready cured these days. A cured potjie is shiny and smooth on both outside an inside. These are ready to use immediately after a good scrub.
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An uncured pot is a very dark gray, CURING THE POTJIE rough on the inside and needs the following elbow grease:
Fill 2/3 of the potjie with water; add 200ml of vinegar and boil for one hour.
Let the potjie cool, empty contents and scour the inside with very rough sandpaper until as smooth as possible.
Fill 2/3 of the potjie with water again and, this time, instead of vinegar, add any vegetable leaves (carrot, potato, old veggies - don't be shy, chuck in as much as comes to hand!).
Boil for another hour, cool, drain and again scour until the inside of pot is as smooth as possible.
Wash the pot thoroughly, dry and rub inside with cooking oil. Clean before using.
Always wash the pot thoroughly after use and rub it immediately with some cooking oil to prevent rust.

This is the only sure fire way of curing a potjie. Repeat step three and four if the discarded water is still excessively black.

Where to find Potjies / Dutch Ovens
 
Superstore and Canadian tire C$19.00 - C$20.00
Ribtor in Calgary http://www.ribtor.com/
Out of Africa trading: http://www.outofafricatrading.com/