What is the perfect snack while on the road, tied to your desk wading through hours of work, or binge-watching your favourite television series? Yup, you probably guessed right first time around – for South Africans, it is undoubtedly biltong. Biltong isn’t an extravagant or expensive snack, but it’s tasty, convenient to carry with you everywhere, and is jam-packed with protein. What could be better, right?!
With South Africa being so in love with biltong, it stands to reason that at some point, Saffas did what can only be described as ‘creating magic” when they learned to combine two of South Africa’s finest treats: biltong and the traditional South African potjiekos. Now we’re walking! Now we’re talking biltong potjie!
For those who aren’t familiar with either of these foods, let’s dive into a bit of history before we haul out our favourite biltong potjie recipe and wow the socks off you (and your new friends and colleagues abroad). This one you have to try for yourself!
A Brief History of South African Potjie
South Africans have the Dutch to thank for potjiekos! Back in the Netherlands in 1574, the Dutch experienced the Eighty Years’ War. During this time, a meal very similar to potjiekos was made by the Dutch from the bits of food left in pots by Spanish soldiers during the Seige of Leiden. The dish consisted of layers of the Spanish troops’ leftover meat and veggies and was called “Hutspot”.
The Dutch Settlers brought this meal concept with them when they arrived in the Cape in 1652. They taught the locals the art of cooking up a stew-like meal in a cast-iron pot now called the “potjie pot” in South Africa, but was a Dutch oven back then.
A Brief History of Biltong
Where on earth does the idea of biltong come from? If we take a quick look at the history of biltong, it becomes evident that again, we have the Dutch to thank for it! Dutch settlers created the concept of drying meat by air and then rubbing it with salt, pepper, vinegar, and spices to preserve it. It is said that the concept became popular when the Voortrekkers (traveling by ox wagon) needed to carry food stock with them as they trekked away from British rule in the Cape Colony and headed into the interior of Southern Africa. Yup, biltong is as old as the Great Trek!
South African Biltong Potjie Recipe
Let’s talk about whipping up a biltong potjie recipe. If you think about combining potjiekos with biltong, you probably envision a dish much like the traditional South African potjie with layers of meat and vegetables, just with biltong added. That couldn’t be further from the reality though. Biltong Potjie is something completely different. If you like creamy pastas, then biltong potjie is for you! Here’s a great recipe to try at home.
What you need:
- 250g of biltong of your choice (cut up into pieces)
- 500g of macaroni or short pasta
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 onions chopped into chunks
- 3 garlic cloves grated
- 250g of mushrooms (button mushrooms) chopped into chunks
- 1 beef stock cube
- 2 cups of boiling water
- ½ cup of white wine
- 50g of tomato paste (1 sachet will do)
- 1 packet of instant white sauce/cream of mushroom soup or the Denny Alfredo Pasta sauce
- 1 cup of full-cream milk
- 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley and coriander to serve
What to do:
- Heat the potjie pot and add the oil.
- When the oil is hot, throw the chopped onions in and give them a stir. Let the onions fry until they become soft and slightly translucent. Add a bit of salt to taste, only once they are soft.
- Add the grated garlic and mushrooms to the pot and fry until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant.
- Dissolve the beef stock cube in 2 cups of boiling water and pour this into the potjie pot.
- Add the white wine and tomato paste and mix well. Let this simmer for at least one minute.
- Add the pasta and the biltong pieces to the pot and stir well. Replace the lid on the pot and allow it to simmer on medium heat for a full 5 minutes before removing the lid.
- Add the milk and the packet sauce of your choice to the pot and stir thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps and all is dissolved. Add more milk or water until the consistency is saucy without being too thick or too watery.
- Allow the mixture to simmer with the lid on until the pasta is cooked through. This can take around 20 minutes. Keep checking to make sure that the potjie hasn’t become dry inside.
- When the pasta is cooked, you can add the grated cheese to the pot and stir it in.
- Serve in bowls with a twist of black pepper on top and a sprinkle of fresh parsley and coriander leaves.
Undoubtedly, your taste buds are tantalised just from reading this recipe! Serve, enjoy, tell all your friends!
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