I can see your raised eyebrows from here. ‘What’s he talking about? What on earth is a “potjie pie”?’ I hear you ask. Well, by the time you’ve finished reading this recipe, you ought to be salivating copiously down your shirt front.
You’ve heard of a Venison Potjie and you’ve doubtless heard of a Venison Pie; but now, dear, loyal reader, for your gastronomic delight, I offer you a recipe to give you the best of both worlds. The goal is to have the best of a fire-smoked dish, cooked slowly in a cast iron pot, to retain that juicy, flavoursome tenderness – and then placed under a layer of heavenly butter-puff pastry.
[Quick cultural insert:] For any foreign readers, a potjie – pronounced “poy-key” (the word comes from the Dutch ‘potje’ and Afrikaans – meaning jar or small pot – a bit of a misnomer really, because some of these can reach gargantuan cauldron type dimensions) is a round or flat bottomed pot cast from a lump of iron. For centuries, Africans of all shades, shapes and sizes have used potjies for camp food, cultural events or simply sociable entertaining. Like most cooking, it takes some practise and cooking in a potjie does not automatically mean a resounding social success…. [end of insert]
My dish is called:
Impala Potjie Pie, Sweet Potato Croquettes and Pecan & Avo Salad.
My personal wine pairing is a Meerlust Rubicon, for two reasons: (1) Because the multi-award winning blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, yielding a full bodied palate and a delightful nose will complement the meal and (2) you will have worked bloody hard to prepare this meal, so why not reward yourself with an equally august wine?
While the Rubicon is, to my mind, a most agreeable partner, other reputable wines (Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) are equally acceptable. Ah hell, what am I saying? I don’t do poncey – so if the mood takes you, have a beer or Coke (that’s a bottle not a line).
We made this today (Saturday 30th July 2011) – so the photographs are so fresh, that if you smell your computer screen you’ll actually smell…. no you won’t, you’ll actually look a total pillock. I am indebted to Mrs Chips for her assistance in getting everything out on time and for her honest feedback in the tasting department. Right, let’s get to it….
We’ll be using approximately 650g of Impala or Rooibok shins– but Eland, Gemsbok or Springbok are just as good (I tried to avoid using a Springbok because if they taste like they played rugby today – it’s going to be bladdy awful).
- 1/4 onion – finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
- 1 Sprig (15cm) of rosemary – bruised
- 2 Juniper berries – bruised
- 3ml each of:
- Ground cloves
- White pepper
- 1 heaped teaspoon roasted (and ground) sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons of a good port
- 2 tablespoons cabernet sauvignon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons of redcurrent or quince jelly
Melt jelly in a pot and add all of the above ingredients. Clean the venison pieces of any loose bone shards, place in a flat bottomed dish and pour marinade over. Leave to stand (covered) in the fridge for 1 to 2 days (at the very least 6 hours).
- 1 three legged cast iron pot (size 1 or 2)
- 3 Lamb rib chops – meat separated from rest of chop
- 1 onion chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
- 6 pieces of smoked streaky bacon
- 125g brown or Portabellini mushrooms – sliced
- 2 teaspoons cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 750ml venison stock (or 750ml mix of beef, veg and chicken stock)
- 1 cup good quality dry red wine
- 1 bouquet garni
- 2 or 3 carrots halved and sliced (approx 1.5mm)
- 1 stick celery sliced (approx 1,5mm)
- 1/2 cup of dried apricots and/or peaches
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley – finely chopped (or 1 heaped teaspoon dried parsley)
- 3 teaspoons of corn flour for thickening
- 1/3 cup of ground hazel nuts
- approximately 1/4 cup of fresh pouring cream
- 1 pack of butter puff pastry
- 1 egg – beaten with a pinch of salt
Sweet potato croquettes
- 3 large sweet potatoes wrapped in foil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 to 2 tablespoons cream
- Use your own imagination and preferences – but we used:
- Cos or butter lettuce
- Snow peas
- Baby mielies (corn)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Pecan nuts – coarsely chopped
- Avo – sliced
- Spring onion – finely sliced
- Build a fire with good wood charcoal and about 3 decent sized logs of hard wood (or 5 pieces of thornwood)
- Place the foil-wrapped sweet potatoes on the coals and bake until soft (testing and turning every few minutes)
- Heat oil and butter in the pot
- Add bacon and sauté until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add chopped onion and sauté for about 1 minute.
- Add garlic and sauté both until translucent.
- Add mushrooms and sauté until brown and soft. Remove all three with slotted spoon
- Lower pot closer to the fire to build heat.
- Remove venison from marinade and add to pot.
- Immediately add the meat pieces and fat & bone of lamb shops. Braise on the high heat until meat has browned on the outside.
- Return the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the pot.
- Add the marinade and the bouquet garni to the pot.
- Add enough stock to cover the meat.
- Raise pot to reduce heat to a simmer – simmer for 2 to 2.5 hours (about 45 mins with the lid off to get the smokey flavour from the wood). Now for the sweet potatoes…
- When the sweet potatoes are soft, remove them from the fire and allow to cool completely.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and place in a bowl.
- Add the butter and cream and mash well (if you want to, you can whip them with a whisk too – to get them light and fluffy).
- Form the croquettes either by spoon or piping the potatoes onto a baking tray. Allow to set.
- Back to the potjie. After about 1.5 hours – add the celery, carrots and dried apricots/peaches
- Keep stirring every few minutes, adding stock when necessary. If the stock runs out, simply add water, 1/2 a cup at a time.
- Add about 1/3 cup of dry red wine about half way through.
- After about 2.5 hours (or when meat is nice and tender and flaking off the bones), remove bouquet garni, bay leaf, juniper seeds, the venison and lamb bones (I am hellishly fussy about having inedible bits in the pie, so I removed all solids from the pot and went through it all, carefully removing and bones, gristle and sinew)
- Return the meat to the fire and cook on a low heat (just bubbling) for about 15 to 30 minutes.
- Add the ground hazel nuts and parsley.
- A few minutes before the end, add the corn flour (which you’ve put in a cup and mixed with 3 tablespoons of cold water) slowly to the pot, stirring all the time.
- At this time switch the grill on for the croquettes.
- As soon as the mixture has thickened acceptably remove it from the iron pot and allow to cool in a separate dish
- Switch the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430F).
- Prepare the pie dish by wetting the edge with water
- Roll out pastry until 6mm thick and at least 10mm over each edge of the pie dish. Lightly score the pastry with a knife, leaving crisscrossed diagonal lines.
- Cut one or two strips of pastry about 8mm wide and place them on the rim of the dish, pressing down to secure them.
- Spoon the potjie mixture into pie dish and level it out. You may prefer to place a pie funnel in the centre of your dish.
- Sprinkle the crispy bacon over the top of the potjie mixture.
- Brush the pastry rim with egg-wash.
- Lay the pastry carefully over the pie dish, ensuring the 10mm overlap on each side. Crimp the edges with your fingers.
- Pierce the pastry a few times with a knife or cooking needle.
- With left over pastry, cut out decorative leaves etc (for the poncey effect)
- Brush the pastry with egg wash and lay the decorations on top. Brush them too with the egg wash.
- Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 220C.
- Use the remaining egg wash to brush onto the croquettes.
- Sprinkle a little cinnamon onto the croquettes to enhance the taste.
- As soon as the pie has gone into the oven, place the croquettes under the grill – until golden brown (about 20 minutes, depending on your grill). An alternative is to use a blow torch to make the edges nice and crispy.
- Check the pie after 18 to 20 minutes. When the pastry is invitingly golden – remove from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes
Even with generous slices, this ought to serve 4 to 6 people.
I hope you enjoy cooking this and that your guests will enjoy your efforts. Should they survive, please won’t you tell them where you got the recipe.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.