Believe in the magic of potjie with this South African oxtail stew recipe.

Potjiekos – this traditional South African stew cooked over an open fire – connects family and friends with savory comfort food. The literal translation to potjie is simply “small-pot food” and it can be prepared in numerous ways. Using this recipe, our expert chefs have made potjiekos with oxtail and red wine that work pleasantly together as one to create a delicious shared meal.

Ingredients

This recipe is best made in a cast iron potjie pot, though a Dutch oven or slow cooker may produce a similar result.

  • 1lb of fresh oxtails, with separated joints (500g)
  • 10 slices of bacon (cut into 2.5cm pieces)
  • ½ cup flour, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper
  • 4 ¼ cups beef stock
  • ½ cup tomato paste (115g)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs such as a few sprigs of thyme, parsley and a bay leaf)
  • 4 large leeks, chopped coarsely
  • 2 large onions, chopped coarsely
  • 6 large carrots (2 chopped coarsely and 4 diced finely)
  • 20 button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup red wine (250ml)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic

Suggestion: If going to a butcher, request your slices be cut between the bones. Alternatives to oxtails include 3 to 3 ½ pounds of beef shanks, beef short ribs on the bone or lamb neck.

Preparation

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours

1. Wipe the oxtails dry with a paper towel. Put seasoned flour in a re-sealable plastic bag, then add the oxtail and shake to coat with flour. Heat the butter and olive oil in the potjie (either over coals or gas) or Dutch oven and sauté bacon pieces. Remove bacon, add the oxtail to the pot and brown in the bacon fat. When each piece is browned all over, remove and drain on paper towels while keeping warm.

2. Add the 4 finely diced carrots to the pot together with the chopped onions and the leeks, and sauté until softened. Return the oxtail and bacon to the pot and add the bouquet garni, bay leaf, peppercorns, garlic, tomato sauce, beef stock and red wine. Bring slowly to a boil (if you got this far while cooking on gas, now is the best time to transfer it to the coals). Cover tightly with a lid and let cook for 4 hours (or 3 hours if using Dutch oven).

3. One hour before serving, add the remaining carrots and mushrooms and continue cooking slowly, without stirring. If you want a thicker sauce, stir in some cornstarch mixed with cold water just before serving over rice, polenta or Mieliepap – a South African maize flour porridge. Enjoy!

Recipe Credit: Jeanne Horak

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