27 January 2009

Springbok Neck Potjie with Dumplings (and a doughboy)

Springbok Neck Potjie with Dumplings (and a doughboy)

There is something macabre about eating your National Symbol but the wild game flavour is worth it. If you can’t get springbok, or game is not your cup of tea, you can always replace with lamb neck and if you don’t have a potjie pot (a.k.a a Dutch oven), you can use a heavy pot with a good tight fitting lid.

Generally, Potjie is cooked in the great outdoors over a slow fire, but in Winter I cook inside next to my fireplace. Potjie pots aren’t fussy pots, so you can even use charcoal. Once the pot is heated up, and because the pot is made from cast iron, it generally needs just the occasional log or coal to keep it on the go. Generally, cooking on a potjie pot is slow cooking – when you’re totally familiar with your pot – you’ll begin to recognise that the potjie pot whisper is a sure sign of good food on the way.

1.5 kg springbok neck cut into sections
enough cake flour to dust the springbok
good dollop of olive oil
1 onion roughly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
sprig of fresh rosemary
250ml (1 cup) good red wine (warmed up)
250ml (1 cup) meat stock (warm)
2 leeks cut into thin rounds
2 carrots cut into rounds
half a butternut cut into chunks

Coat the springbok in flour and brown in the oil in the bottom of your potjie pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add salt, black pepper, rosemary and to the meat, garlic and onions, give it a good stir, then put on the lid and simmer on gentle heat for 2 ½ to 3 hours until the meat is tender. This is very important: the dish must simmer (I call it the potjie pot whisper). If you boil the meat rapidly, chances are the meat will turn tough and taste like leather so please… gentle heat. Next, layer the leeks, carrots and butternut on the meat (don’t stir) and cook for a further 20 minutes. Now make the dumplings (and the doughboy).

To make the Dumplings (and the doughboy)

100 grams of butter
500 grams cake flour
2 t baking powder
grated pecorino cheese
1 t salt
about a cup of cold water

Sift the baking powder, salt and flour together. Add pecorino cheese, then rub in the butter with your finger tips, then gradually add cold water until you have soft dough. Break off small pieces of dough (about half the size of an egg) and place in the pot in the gravy. To make the doughboy, roll out a piece of dough and cut out a ginger bread man and place in the pot. Put the lid on and cook for a further 20 minutes. Ps. don’t peak or the dumplings will flop.

Serve with a good glass of red wine.

In case you didn’t know. The potjie pot is the most widely used pot in Africa. Introduced more than 200 years ago by the Dutch, it has become a pillar of African cuisine and is used to make everything from stews to bread to Umqombuthu (African beer). I have a collection of pots in various sizes although the biggest does the most duty because generally, potjie pot food is slow food and best shared with good friends.

If you can’t cook on a fire, you can use a stove on low heat, but it’s not the most energy efficient way of cooking (and just won’t taste the same).


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