At the end of the day when the sun is setting, it is amazing how the stomach juices seem to become active. This is especially true when you are outdoors, close to nature. Any cook worth their salt, wants to be able to whip up a tasty meal no matter where they are. What bliss to see family and friends eyes light up when their plates are full of colourful food that smells heavenly and then sigh as they mop up the last morsels licking their lips in satisfaction. Cooking outdoors is easy as you need very little equipment in your ‘outdoor kitchen’.
Basic equipment needed for cooking outdoors:
- gas bottle and gas plate
- wood, charcoal and firelighters
- braai grid
- 3 legged cast iron pot (potjie)
- flat bottomed cast iron pot (potjie)
- cooking pot with a lid
- gas kettle
- gas lamp
- tin foil
- wooden spoons, knives, serving spoons
- potato peeler
- bowls with lids
- measuring cup
- head torch
- chopping board
- wooden board
Recipe 1: All in one Tangy Chicken ‘potjie’
This is a firm favourite with my family and we make it in summer and winter. It serves 6 people easily. Serve with a fresh garden salad.
30ml olive oil, 2kg chicken pieces, 5 medium onions chopped, 2 chilies seeded and chopped, 250ml water, 5 carrots peeled and chopped, 6 medium potatoes peeled and cubed, 125ml uncooked rice, tin of peas, punnet of mushrooms or 2 tins, tin of chopped tomatoes, 10ml chopped parsley, 2 cloves of garlic chopped, pepper, 5ml dried oregano, level teaspoon of peri-peri powder, 125ml of dry white wine, 30ml sugar, 20ml salt, 20ml mild curry powder, 1 chicken stock cube
1. Make a fire, add charcoal and wait for coals. Put the 3 legged cast iron pot over the coals to heat for a few minutes. Put the oil into the pot and heat. Add the chicken pieces and fry a few at a time until golden brown. Stir with the wooden spoon. Remove and set aside in a pot with a lid.
2. Fry onions and chilies until tender, add the chicken and 250ml water (a cup) to the pot. Sprinkle the herbs and spices on top, put on the lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Check that there are enough coals under the pot.
3. Stir the meat and onions to make sure nothing is stuck at the bottom of the pot. Arrange the vegetables and rice in layers on top of the meat in the order listed above.
4. Mix the wine with the remaining ingredients and pour over the potjiekos (food in the pot). Do not stir at this stage. Cover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes until the rice is cooked and the potatoes and carrots are soft. Stir through before serving.
5. When the meal is finished, scrap out all the bits of food from the pot, fill the pot with water and put back on the fire to heat up and to loosen oil and food from the sides of the pot. When hot, add a little washing up liquid and scour out the pot. Empty the water and repeat if needed. Let the empty pot dry on the dying coals. Remove from the heat and let the pot cool. Once cold, oil the inside of the pot and lid with cooking oil and leave until the pot is needed again. This prevents the pot from rusting.
Recipe 2: Stuffed chicken breasts
This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite Gordon Ramsay’s recipes and it serves 4 people. I would serve it with baked potatoes wrapped in foil and cooked in the coals of the fire, coleslaw and a fresh garden salad.
4 Large filleted chicken breasts, 8 fresh sage leaves or 5ml dried sage, 5 heaped tablespoons of ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, 8 slices of Parma ham or 4 large slices of Gypsy ham, 30ml olive oil, sprigs of thyme of 5ml dried thyme, tin foil, cling wrap
1. Cut a deep slit along the one side of the chicken breast, without slicing through, then open up flat. On a chopping board chop 4 sage leaves or 2,5 dried sage and mix into ricotta in a small bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.
2. Lay two slices of Parma ham on a board overlapping or one Gypsy ham. Put a sage leaf or some dried sage in the middle and lay the open chicken breast on top. Repeat 3 more times. Now divide up the ricotta mixture between the 4 and spoon onto the middle of the chicken breast. Fold the sides together to form a roll. Cover each one in cling wrap and put in your cooler box to chill for 1 – 2 hours.
3. Make a fire, add charcoal and put the braai grid on top. Put the flat bottomed potjie pot on of the grid to heat. *Add the oil and when hot, fry the Parma-wrapped chicken breasts until each side is golden brown. *(If you are doing baked potatoes, now is the time to place them among the coals.)
4. Take some tin foil, shiny side facing inwards, put a chicken breast in the middle and sprinkle with thyme. Wrap the breast in the foil and place close to the coals, but not on top. Keep turning the parcels and cook for about 20 minutes. Check if cooked by unwrapping one and it should feel firm when lightly pressed.
Recipe 3 : Springbok (or any venison) Potjie
A different flavoured potjie. One could use any game meat even ostrich. Remember to soak the meat in red wine for at least 6 hours as this helps to tenderise the venison. Use a No. 3 pot to serve 6 – 8 people or reduce the ingredients slightly and use a No. 2 pot for 4 -5 people.
3 tbsp olive oil, 6 medium carrots sliced, 3 medium onions sliced, 4 cloves garlic chopped, 4 bay leaves, 4 whole cloves, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp all spice, 1 tsp dried coriander, 1 tsp nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, 1,5 kg venison cubed, 6 slices of bacon chopped, 1 cup red wine, 6 large potatoes sliced, 150g dried prunes, 150g dried apricots, 250ml sherry
1. Cube the springbok/venison and soak in the red wine, in a covered dish for at least 6 hours.
2. Just before making the fire, soak the prunes and apricots in the sherry – cover and set aside.
3. Make a fire, add charcoal and wait for coals. Put the cast iron pot over the coals to heat for a few minutes. Put the oil into the pot and heat. Saute the carrots, onions and garlic for 10 minutes.
4. Add the herbs and spices, meat with wine and bacon. Cover and simmer for 3 hours. Remember to keep checking the coals every 30 minutes. You will need to make a side fire for more coals at least twice during this period.
5. Add the potatoes, prunes, apricots and sherry and simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir through before serving. Add a little Mazema if the sauce needs thickening. It is also a good idea to use the last of your coals to cook some other meat like chicken for those who find the potjie too rich.
6. Serve with rice or pasta and a fresh garden salad. We also enjoy soaking up the last juices with pot bread made on the fire.
7. When the meal is finished, scrap out all the bits of food from the pot, fill the pot with water and put back on the fire to heat up and to loosen oil and food from the sides of the pot. When hot, add a little washing up liquid and scour out the pot. Empty the water and repeat if needed. Let the empty pot to dry on the dying coals. Remove from the heat and let the pot cool. Once cold, oil the inside of the pot and lid with cooking oil and leave until the pot is needed again. This prevents the pot from rusting.
Recipe 4 : Lamb curry potjie
We doubled this recipe recently to serve 12 people. We used a number 3 and 2 pot for 12, but if you are only making for 6 – 8 use a number 3 pot. It is a slow potjie taking about 4,5 hours from start to finish.
Marinade: 30ml olive oil; 20ml masala or curry powder; 10ml ginger grated; 10ml turmeric; 10ml lemon juice; 5ml mustard powder; 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Meat and Vegetables: 2kg of stewing lamb or lamb knuckles; 1 packet bacon chopped; 60ml olive oil; 50ml butter; 4 cinnamon sticks; 10 whole cloves; 3 large onions chopped; 2 brinjals peeled and cubed; 16 baby potatoes; 1 sweet potatoes peeled and cubed; 4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and grated or finely chopped; salt and pepper to taste; a little sugar
Yoghurt mixture: 500ml plain yoghurt; 20ml fresh parsley chopped; 15ml grated lemon peel
1. Mix marinade ingredients and pour over the meat.
2. Make a fire and get hot coals. Put cast iron No. 3 pot on legs or stand over the coals. Heat the oil and butter in the pot.
3. Add cinnamon and cloves and fry well, then add the onions and fry till tender. Add the bacon and cook slightly. Remove this mixture from the pot.
4. Brown the meat in the pot and add a little water. Return the onion and bacon mix to the pot. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour.
5. Arrange the brinjal cubes on top of the meat and season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little sugar. Cover and simmer gently 2 – 3 hours.
6. Stir the contents of the pot through gently just before serving. Serve on top of rice.
7. Mix the yoghurt, parsley and lemon peel together. Spoon some of this mixture on top of each serving.
8. When the meal is finished, scrap out all the bits of food from the pot, fill the pot with water and put back on the fire to heat up and to loosen oil and food from the sides of the pot. When hot, add a little washing up liquid and scour out the pot gently. Empty the water and repeat if needed. Let the empty pot dry on the dying coals. Remove from the heat and let the pot cool. Once cold, oil the inside of the pot and lid with cooking oil and leave until the pot is needed again. This prevents the pot from rusting.
Do you have a favourite recipe for outdoor cooking? Why don’t you send it to me plus a photo or two and I’ll add them to this blog post.