The Origins of Potjiekos

Potjiekos has become ingrained in South African culture. Cooking up a potjie has evolved into a uniquely South African social happening, with a popularity only matched by the iconic South African braai. But let us have a look how Potjiekos came to be such an institution in South Africa.

With the arrival of the first Dutch settlers in the Cape, came their tradition of cooking food in heavy cast iron pots. These pots hung from the kitchen hearth above the fire. Before the arrival of the settlers, migrants to Southern Africa had learned the use of the cast iron pot from Arab traders and later the Portuguese colonist.

Cast iron pots were ideal for cooking food as they were able to retain heat well and only needed a few coals to keep the food simmering for hours. The pots allowed steam to circulate instead of escaping through the lid making them ideal for cooking tender roasts and stews. Ingredients were kept simple with meat, potatoes and some vegetables.

These cast iron pots perfectly suited the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous tribes and Voortrekkers during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Voortrekkers traveled with their pots hooked under their wagons. The pots and their contents protected with a layer of fat. When the wagons stopped at the end of the day, the pots were unhooked and the available meat was stewed with potatoes and vegetables.

Today, cooking up a potjie, has evolved into a social happening where family, friends and work colleagues can enjoy spending time together with good food. Potjiekos Cooking Competitions have also become popular team building events. Teamwork, healthy competition and good food combine to create the perfect event for teams to get to know each other better and forge strong bonds.

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