This is a superb curry with a rich and exotic flavour. Amazingly all the spices you need are available at normal South African supermarkets. Each ingredient serves a purpose in creating the aromatic end product. Take a deep breath and just follow the steps – this is one of the easier yet more impressive potjies you will make in your life; the meat doesn’t even need to cook off the bone, as you’re starting with deboned meat.
WHAT YOU NEED (serves 4)
- 2 tots vegetable oil
- 1 kg boneless lamb meat (cubed – cut a leg or shoulder into cubes; alternatively I just buy enough leg chops, cut them into blocks and discard the bones)
- 2 onions (peeled and finely chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 6 whole cloves (the spice, not garlic)
- 6 cloves garlic (crushed or chopped)
- fresh ginger (crushed or chopped, equal in volume to the garlic)
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tot paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 1/2 cup water
- fresh coriander leaves (for garnish)
WHAT TO DO
Heat the oil in a potjie on the fire. Add the meat cubes in batches and fry them over high heat for a few minutes until they get a nice brown colour. You will probably need two batches. Take them out of the pot and keep on a plate out of the way of dogs or hyenas. We will put the meat back in the pot later. Leave any fat or juices in the pot for the next step.
In the same pot, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cloves, and fry for about 1 minute. Right about now you will smell some great things happening in the pot as the heat starts to release fragrances from the spices.
Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for another minute, then add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Stir these in well. The mixture might be fairly dry at this point, which means things could burn, so don’t have big flames under the pot. It also means you should move along quickly to the next step.
Put the lamb (and any juices that gathered with it on the plate) back into the potjie – it should moisten up the dry bottom. Stir right to the bottom and loosen any sticky bits with the spoon. If you’re struggling, you can add a very small amount of water to help you scrape loose everything sticking to the bottom of the pot. As soon as you’re done go to the next step.
Add the yoghurt while stirring continuously to mix it well into the dish.
Cook for 1–3 minutes, then add the water, and stir until you have a sauce as smooth as the Protea cricket players. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and gently simmer over low heat for about an hour until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced to form a rich gravy. If your fire is too hot, the gravy will reduce too quickly and become a burnt paste, which would be a tragedy. Watch the heat carefully and stir a few drops more water into the pot if really necessary.
Take the pot off the fire and serve with basmati rice (see page182) and some fresh coriander leaves.
Cardamom pods are like referees in rugby matches. Without them the meal cannot exist, but they are not particularly pleasant things to encounter. They are at their best if you don’t actually notice that they’re there. If you spot one in the finished product, pick it out and throw it away. It has served its purpose of adding flavour to the meal.