Sensational Venison Potjie Pie–tried & tested… today.

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.

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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).

Marinade:

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The marinade mixtures - with an unusual but lovely port in the background.

  • 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
    • Ginger
    • Nutmeg
    • 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
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Impala shins - cleaned - lurking in wait of the marinade.

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).

DSCN1035

Impala wallowing in that delicious marinade.

Pot ingredients:

  • 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

Salad ingredients:

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Our salad. We chose salad over vegetables to counteract the richness of the pie.

  • Use your own imagination and preferences – but we used:
  • Cos or butter lettuce
  • Snow peas
  • Baby mielies (corn)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sprouts
  • Pecan nuts – coarsely chopped
  • Avo – sliced
  • Spring onion – finely sliced

Method:

DSCN1039

What a way to spend an afternoon!! Potjie on the fire, sweet potatoes on the coals.

  • 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.
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Cooling potjie mixture, thickened, waiting for transfer to pie dish.

  • 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.
DSCN1043

The pie ready to go into the oven (with holly leaves, I ask you - the only cutout I have. I told you I don't do poncey.

  • 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
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Is that mouth watering or what!!!

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First slice gone. And in a matter of minutes - all gone.

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.

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About Freud Fission Chips

Despite the banality of the name, FFC has led an intensely varied life. Grateful for surviving almost three years as a 'troepie' (soldier for non-South African Readers) in the Angolan war, he determined to wring as much out of life as possible. Currently providing Business Analysis services, trading on the stock market and developing web pages to pay the bills, FFC also dabbles in wildlife, landscape and people photography, writing, and far too many interests for his own good. He has also travelled extensively in southern Africa (working on the sound theory that a moving target is more dificult to hit). These peregrinations also include over 1500kms on foot through some of the worlds most spectacular scenery. It hasn't all been plain sailing, beer and skittles, and endless beds of roses... Chief amongst the prerequisites for surviving Africa, with its mind-bending characteristics, is an appropriate sense of humour.... So, for now, he will be recounting the amusing among the annoying, the frustrating wrapped in the funny and extracting the mirth from the melancholy... Oh yes, there might be some alliteration too.
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4 Responses to Sensational Venison Potjie Pie–tried & tested… today.

  1. Tony says:

    This looks YUMMY. This will definately be on my to do list. Or perhaps we can indulge in a similar faire the next time you visit our humble abode.There was however one small insignificent that into your rendition, Saturday was 30 June was probably meant to be Saturday 30 July.

    • Hi Tony,
      Thanks sqiure – it was definitely yummy to the max – to use the more youthful vernacular.
      Thanks so much for the date correction – I will correct it right now – it was late when I posted this and missed it in the proof read. But I appreciate you telling me 🙂

      Looking forward to seeing you guys.

  2. Fat Gary says:

    Wow, Mr Chips, that looks absolutely terriffic! Entirely delectable and mouth-wateringly scrumptious (or to quote a common English saying, it looks like the dog’s bollocks!).

    I never thought of doing croquettes with pie, but I can see how sweet potato would make a fantastic alternative for something like this and I like how you refrained from deep-frying them, that might have been to rich. Also, I feel I must comment on your most excellent potjie stand. Did you construct it yourself or did you buy it like that?

    I love the idea of cooking a dish slowly in a potjie, what a wonderful way of turning a slow-cooked dish into a social event, much like a braai. While I’ve never tried this with a pie, when I lived back in SA I often used to spend the day cooking lamb curry with my brother in much the same way (with lots of fresh coriander!). I like to brown / seal the meat on the grill first to give it some of that flame-grilled braai flavour, before chucking the whole lot in the pot to cook until tender.

    I must confess that I have a deep, unconditional and at times somewhat unhealthy love of pies. I have even been known to come over all teary-eyed when confronted with a particularly fine specimen, much to Mrs Gary’s amusement. My personal favourite is a steak or game pie, although lamb can be super too (ever tried cape malay curried pie?). In the cooler months, I ask my butcher for lamb neck and lamb kidney (I know this sounds gross but they enrich the pic) to make a lamb pie, similar to Lancashire Hotpot (another of my favourites). Of course, in this country the traditional pairing for pie is a pint of real English Bitter, which I like to brew once a year for this very purpose!

    Interesting use of spices, I have not used Juniper berries much before but I can imagine they complement the venison. As for the sesame seeds – I’ve not used them this way but I do occasionally use sesame oil. I find it incredibly strong and overpowering in flavour, are the seeds milder?

    ATB, F.G.

    • Hey Gary!

      Thank you for your kind words sir. I can indeed (if a tad arrogantly) confirm that the Fido’s nads were in jeopardy at the time of eating 🙂

      I cannot take credit for the nifty pot-holding design on the braai. However, here is a website that sells the newer model of the original Kudu braai (http://www.pricecheck.co.za/offers/22616174/Kudu+Braai+-+Min+Order/) . I’ve had at least one of these since the mid 80’s (priced at R199 back then!!!), and the last one I bought – mentioned in the blog – was about R400. I see it is now priced at R800 – damn. I find this particular braai most useful for small numbers (four to six people – that’s guests, eating people is just wrong). The side pole allows for height adjustment and can make for really accurate braaing of steaks.

      I too have to admit to an extreme fondness of a well made pie (or 3.14159 as some would prefer to express it). As time and the blog go on, I’ll put up some pie recipes which have stood me in good stead.

      Re your reference to sesame oil and seeds: I agree that the sesame oil is very strong in smell and taste – and ought to be used sparingly and with caution. However, sesame seeds are considerably milder in taste (and more pleasant in my personal opinion). I would estimate that it would take about 10 to 20 TABLESPOONS of sesame seeds to make one drop of oil. When I use them in cooking (say, for two people) I’ll roast about 3 TEASPOONS in a pan, then grind them.

      Ah mate – I’ve just remembered…. for a sarmie fit for a king….
      Cut some of a fresh French loaf into healthy ‘doorstep’ slices.
      Butter liberally.
      Finely carve up some biltong and place it on the bread.
      [Optional extra] Add a few slices of spring (salad) onion – or pickled onion [end of optional extra]
      Add a little salt and pepper to taste…
      Add a teaspoon of roasted sesame seed on top.
      Put the top slice of bread on the sarmie and take a large bite – with the eyes closed and fond thoughts of a carnelian African sunset through a thorn tree.
      Ensure you have a full box of Kleenex nearby, ’cause it will bring tears to the eyes.

      And finally – just to cause an aura of green over the Maldon countryside. I hope to take delivery of half an Eland in mid September. One of the game farms is culling excess game to prevent overgrazing. so there exists a good chance of some magic biltong and other meals. Naturally, I’ll put up recipes.

      Take care squire
      FFC

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