Curried vegetable potjiekos (serves 10 as a side dish)

A potjie is a South African round, 3-legged cast iron cooking pot that can trace its origins way back to the early history of the Afrikaners in South Africa.  They were suspended over an open hearth to cook in early Cape homes and taken on ox wagons with the Voortrekkers into the interior, to be unhooked and cooked in over an open fire at night.  They proved so popular with the tribes in the country's interior that traditional clay pots were soon swapped for these more durable vessels.  These days, they are used as a kind of open-air crockpot in which food is stewed slowly in a closed pot over hot coals, to emerge tender and fragrant and delicious (a literal translation is potjiekos is "little pot food"). This vegetarian version is redolent with spices and balanced by the sweetness of coconut milk.  Make it in a Dutch oven or crock pot in the oven if you do not have a cast iron pot or an open fire.

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 Tbsp fresh ginger root, minced
1 fresh chilli (deseeded if you like it less spicy)
1 Tbsp curry powder (as hotr or mild as you like)
1 tsp coriander seed, coarsely ground
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
450g cauliflower, cut into florets
450g broccoli, cut into florets
1 aubergine, peeled and cubed
1 green pepper, cubed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 410g tin chickpeas, drained
1 cup chicken stock
1 x 410g tin coconut milk
200g baby spinach leaves


Melt the butter and oil trogether in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger and sautee gently for about 10 minutes.  Add the chilli, spices, curry powder and salt and continue to cook for a further 4 minutes or so before turning off the heat.

Layer your vegetables in the potjie pot as follows:  potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, pepper, chickpeas, aubergine, chopped tomatoes.  Carefully pour in the chicken stock and the coconut milk and close the lid tightly.

Allow to cook over hot coals (not flames) for about 2 hours, replenishing the coals as necessary - yo ucan also place a few on the lid to ensure even cooking.  You should be able to hear the pot pubbling lightly through the closed lid.  DO NOT stir, and try not to lift the lid for a peep too often! 

When the vegetables are cooked, add the spinach (you can stir at this point, although from the picture you will see that Nick chose not to and just put the spinach on top).  When the spinach has wilted, remove the pot from the coals and serve immediately.

Another great recipe from
© J Horak Druiff 2010