Oxtail is exquisite for potjie! Oxtail potjie layered with the right ingredients guarantees tender, fall-off-the-bone perfection that allows you to experience rich, textured flavours with each drool-worthy mouthful. Add some good red wine and serve with some dumplings, and you get the best South African oxtail potjie you’ve ever had! Trust us, we’ve tried it. And then we tried it again, just for good measure!
What is oxtail potjie?
Oxtail potjie is an oxtail meal prepared slowly in a black, cast-iron pot called a potjie (poi-kee). The dish prepared in a potjie is usually called potjiekos (poi-kee-kos), which translates to small pot food and is traditionally cooked outdoors over an open fire. Nowadays, the dish itself is often referred to as potjie.
To prepare oxtail potjie, you need a proper potjie pot. This is a three-legged, bulbous, or round-bellied cast iron pot. The pots are also available without legs, and you can use them provided you can raise the pot in such a way that it’s heated from below with no threat of buckling. Potjie pots are available in various sizes, and most people stand them directly over hot coal for cooking or a proper braai fire on the ground or solid brick fireplace.
The best oxtail potjie recipe is simple, easy, and a joy to make, and the number one rule of making this delicacy is you must never stir the oxtail potjie ingredients. Potjie is all about extracting the flavours of the ingredients over a long period on low heat. It’s a very sociable way of cooking, and potjie is traditionally cooked in the company of friends and family. The long cooking time allows you to sit together talking, laughing, singing, and drinking as the pot simmers over the fire.
History of Potjie
The potjie came with the Dutch ancestors of South Africans, and it was their tradition to cook in cast iron pots which were ideal for the time thanks to their excellent heat retention. The pots kept the food simmering for hours over a few embers, and steam remained circulating inside instead of escaping through the lid.
The pot-bellied potjie was the perfect cooking utensil for the nomadic lifestyle of the Voortrekkers, allowing them to cook up tender roasts or game meat, oxen, or goat together with any vegetables they could find. The pots were perfect for storing meat until the next cook, with the pot and contents staying hooked under the wagon while travelling until they could put it on the fire again.
Gradually, cooking up a potjie evolved into a unique South African social tradition, increasing in popularity as the legendary braai. Friends and family gather around a fire, enjoying a drink and chatting as the potjie softly bubbles into a memorable, delicious meal.
Our must-try oxtail potjie recipe with red wine
Try the oxtail recipe below to create the classic oxtail potjie with South African style dumplings.
Servings: 6 people
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 5 hours (all good things take time!)
What you need:
- 1 kg fresh oxtail
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) cooking oil
- 2 large red onions
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 250g mushrooms
- 2 large stalks of celery
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 6 carrots
- 1 packet tomato paste
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 sachets of beef stock
- 350 ml red wine
- 2 cups water
For the dumplings:
- 250ml self-rising flour
- 5ml baking powder
What to do:
- Start the fire well in advance using either wood or charcoal, and ensure you can regulate it by adding or removing coals. Once you’ve got some burning, place the potjie pot directly or a little higher using bricks or rocks.
- Add the oil to fry in the pot, then add the oxtail and fry it well on all sides. Brown it nicely, and you can do this in batches if needed. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves to the pot. Cook until they soften.
- Return the meat to the pot and start layering up the carrots, celery, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
- Mix the water with the stock and add to the pot together with the red wine and tomato paste. Place the lid on the pot and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until meat falls off the bone. Resist any temptation to stir.
Making the dumplings:
- Mix the flour with baking powder, salt, and water, then rub in the butter to make a soft dough.
Place spoonfuls of dough on the meat and vegetables and return the lid to the pot.
- When the dumplings are done, the oxtail potjie is ready. Scoop through all the ingredients with a big spoon to ensure you get a bit of everything on the plate.
Remember to keep replenishing the coals as and when needed so the heat remains underneath the pot. You can also add a few coals on the lid after adding the dough to give the dumplings a little top heat. The cover should always stay on unless you’re adding ingredients. You’ll likely not need salt because of the richness of the oxtail and wine, but you can add as needed after tasting.
The oxtail potjie with South African style dumplings is enough for six people, and you’ll likely go back or seconds with generous chunks of meat and bone with complimentary veggies.
You can also adapt the oxtail potjie recipe with red wine for a slow cooker if you don’t have a potjie pot or can’t use open wood fire or charcoal. Simply brown the meat and layer the ingredients in the slow cooker instead of a potjie pot, then cook until the meat is tender. You may not get the same smoky flavour, but it’s still an easy, hearty, and delicious meal.
Expert advice for SA expats right here at FinGlobal
If you’re cooking up your oxtail potjie dumplings outside South Africa or are considering emigration, FinGlobal has the correct recipe for a good emigration process. You can access tailor-made services and advice from emigration experts to suit your needs and situation.
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