In South Africa Potjiekos (poy-kee-kos), directly translated "pot food", is a stew prepared outdoors in the traditional round, cast iron, three-legged pots (the potjie) which are found in villa and village of people throughout Southern Africa. The pot is efficiently heated using small amounts of wood, charcoal or if fuel is scarce, twisted grass or even dried dung.
Traditionally, the recipe includes meat, vegetables, starches like rice or potatoes, all slow-cooked with Dutch-Malay spices, the distinctive spicing of South Africa's early culinary melting pot. Purists say liquid should never be added to the pot and the contents should never be stirred, as the lid keeps all liquids and flavors circulating throughout cooking. It is said that for a correctly cooked potjie, spices only enhance the taste. Other common ingredients include fruits and flour-based products like pasta.
Potjiekos originated with the Voortrekkers, evolving as a stew made of venison and vegetables (if available), cooked in the potjie. As trekkers shot wild game, it was added to the pot. The large bones were included to thicken the stew. Each day when the wagons stopped, the pot was placed over a fire to simmer. New bones replaced old and fresh meat replaced meat eaten. Game included venison, poultry such as guinea fowl, wart hog, bush pig, rabbit and hare.
Broadly speaking, Africans, Afrikaaners and English South Africans all cook potjiekos, but lounging around the fire for hours while socializing and enjoying side dishes is most culturally ingrained among the Afrikaaners, for whom potjiekos spicing is an esteemed art. "Potjiekos isn't just the meal. It is everything else that accompanies it. If, instead of summits and meetings, leaders held potjiekos gatherings, we all might be a little better off," said one fanatic.
Today there are numerous recipe books and potjiekos chefs, each with their own "secret" ingredients for potjiekos. Annual potjiekos competitions are held.