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Potbrood or ‘Pot bread’ is a bread synonymous with South African food. You can’t get more South African than potbrood unless you consider the braai. However, they both go so well together it is a veritable South African super-feast when you combine the two!

South African food

Baking on an open fire

Around the world, South Africans are known for their love of traditional food and large family gatherings, both of which work very well together. The sharing of a meal goes way back to the days of the early settlers when the main meal of the day was shared around a smoky campfire.

However, sharing a meal around a fire probably started in the days of Adam and Eve and traversed through the world’s many cultures. Many tribes globally would have cooked on an open fire, as there were no stoves or ovens back then! The point is, baking bread on an open fire has deep historical roots no matter where you hail from.

However, the sharing of potbrood under African skies has been a South African tradition enjoyed by many generations.

What is potbrood?

Potbrood is a type of bread that has been baked in a cast-iron pot. The early settlers in the Cape would have used this type of pot to cook on the open fire. Otherwise known as a ‘Dutch oven,’ the cast-iron pot was also used for cooking absolutely everything the settlers would have eaten in those days. You might think it strange to bake bread in a pot. Surely bread requires a bread maker or, at the very least, an oven? However, the Dutch knew precisely what they were doing; no ovens required!

In the old days, the settlers would dig a shallow pit in the ground and line it with hot coals from the campfire. Then the dough was placed into the cast iron pot and put into the pit to bake. And there you have your old-fashioned oond! Nowadays, when we bake potbrood, we pack charcoal or wood coals around a standard cooking pot on the braai grid. This produces an equally tasty specimen of potbrood.

Simple potbrood ingredients

The traditional version of potbrood from our ancestor’s days was quite basic in terms of ingredients. They wouldn’t have had access to the many interesting ingredients we have today, and so the recipe consisted simply of flour, yeast, water, sugar, salt, and oil.

Today we simply walk into our kitchens and look in the cupboard for these standard baking ingredients. However, these simple supplies would have depended greatly on what was available to purchase from passing ships in those days. While the traditional potbrood recipe is still enjoyable, we believe this South African recipe for potbrood provides a fresh take on the humble potbrood. 

Ingredients

To make this potbrood recipe, you will need to gather a few essential bread-making ingredients and a cast-iron pot or potjie pot. Alternatively, you can use a standard heavy-bottomed pot that you don’t mind going into the coals. Not the pot and lid should not have plastic handles.

What you need

  • Potjie pot
  • 500 g self-raising flour
  • 250 g streaky bacon strips (rindless)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 30 g sugar
  • 2 g salt
  • 340 ml beer (your preferred brand)
  • 100 ml water
  • 100 g grated cheese

What to do

Follow these simple instructions

  • Grease the pot with butter, ensuring it covers the bottom and sides of the pot
  • Line the pot with the uncooked bacon strips. They should cover the inner base and sides of the pot.
  • Use a sieve to sift the self-raising flour, salt, and sugar.
  • Mix the egg and the beer, then add this mixture to the sifted dry ingredients, mix into a soft dough. Add a small amount of water if the mixture is too dry.
  • Next, fold the grated cheese into the dough mixture.
  • Then, spoon the dough mixture into the pot. Fold the bacon lining the sides over the top of the dough.
  • Place the cast-iron lid on the pot and carefully position it in the center of the braai coals. Wearing oven gloves, use the braai tongs to pack the coals around the pot. For added heat, place additional coals onto the lid.
  • Bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes, depending on the heat of the coals.
  • Remove from the coals and place on the side to cool before slicing and serving.

* Tip: The bread is cooked when it pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Try your hand at making some of these glorious variations of the potbrood recipe. Simply add the following ingredients to the dough.

  • Freshly chopped rosemary or thyme
  • Grated feta cubes
  • Biltong powder
  • Peppadews

Potbrood is so versatile that the recipe variations are endless, making it the perfect dish to serve at all your summer braai’s. However, if you don’t have access to a braai, potbrood can still be on the menu. Simply swap your cast-iron pot for a heavy skillet and bake your bread in the oven at 150 C for an hour. To brown the bread, remove the pot lid for the last fifteen minutes of cooking time. 

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