According to some people in suits in Europe who probably braai with gas, we’re not really allowed to call the South African wine that is made like port, looks like port and tastes like port, ‘port’. So officially it’s now known as ‘Cape Vintage’. Their reasoning is that ‘port’ is originally from there, and so if it’s from here then it’s not ‘port’. The good news is, this fantastic potjie recipe is way less complicated than intercontinental food name rules. Te meal is every bit as phenomenal as you might imagine.
- lamb shanks (phone your butchery ahead of time – without exception all lambs have four shanks each, but butcheries sometimes cut these shanks up into stewing meat if they don’t know you’re on your way to come and buy them whole)
- 1 tot olive oil
- 2 onions (chopped)
- 2 celery sticks (chopped)
- 6 carrots (chunks)
- 6 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 2 star anise
- 1 bottle Cape Vintage (port)
- 1 tot soy sauce
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh herbs like basil, parsley or thyme (chopped, for serving)
- Braai the lamb shanks over the flames of your fire for a minute or three to burn away some of the fat and brown the meat.
- Add the oil to the potjie and sauté the onion and celery for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots and garlic, sauté for another couple of minutes and then add the coriander powder and star anise. Toss these around for about a minute to release their flavours.
- Now add the bottle of port, the soy sauce and the fire-browned lamb shanks. You want the shanks to be positioned as low down as possible in the potjie so use your wooden spoon to manoeuvre them past the onions, celery and carrots.
- Grind salt and pepper over everything and put the lid on the potjie. Now you want the lamb shanks to cook very gently like this for 3 hours. You want some coals under the potjie and you also want some coals on the lid of the potjie. Tis is not a race, it’s a journey.
- Every so often you can lift the lid, taking care not to get any coals or ash from the lid into the potjie, and check on progress. Tere should be a gentle bubble and the potjie must not run dry. If it’s not making any noise it’s either dry and you need to add a bit more liquid like water, wine or port or alternatively, if there is no sound, it’s simply not cooking at all and you need to add more coals under the pot and onto the lid.
- After 3 hours, check that the meat will come loose from the bone when encouraged to do so by a utensil. If this is the case, the potjie is ready. If not, let it carry on simmering for a while.
- At this stage you want to have built a big fire with good flames, called an atmosfire, around which you and your guests will enjoy the meal.
- Plate the lamb shanks (accompanied by mashed potatoes. If the sauce is too runny and watery, put the potjie without the shanks back onto the flames of the atmosfire without the lid and let it reduce and thicken for a few minutes while all your guests fill their wine glasses, switch off their phones and prepare for the meal. Now finish off each meal by topping the lamb shank with some sauce from the pot, and garnish with chopped fresh herbs.
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