Five of the Best, 2021: Carbonada Criolla potjie

Five of the Best, 2021: Carbonada Criolla potjie
Carbonada Criolla cooked in a potjie; an Argentinian slow-cooked beef dish, adapted. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

This week, before TGIFood goes into festive hibernation until January, we’re revisiting the most popular recipes of the year. People love our potjie recipes. Here, from May, is Carbonada Criolla, an Argentinian dish of slow-cooked beef with an interesting flavour cocktail of spicy and sweet. And this is the best time of year for getting that potjie out and stoking the coals.

To me, this recipe reads like the kind of potjie I like to make: plenty of aromatic broth, some herbs and spices and a kick of heat, and a balance of deep flavours with something sweet, perhaps some dried fruit…

The component of Carbonada Criolla that gives it its sweetness is a small amount of chopped dried fruit: prunes and apricots. So I went to the shop fully expecting to come back home with both. First surprise: there were no dried apricots (such a veteran staple of Cape cooking, but none). Second surprise: the prices. Have you seen the price of prunes lately? Something like R120 for a large bag. Is dried fruit now the ostrich meat of the fruit industry? As priced-out-of-the-market as nuts?

Anyway, I bought two small packets instead, of prunes and dried apricots, 70 g a packet. That was enough, given that Argentinian recipes call for only 2 or 3 prunes and a similar amount of dried apricots. They did the trick.

One recipe called for “garlic scrapes”, which are the tender stem and bud of a hardneck garlic plant, native to North America, but I substituted garlic chives. If you can get some, default to that ingredient.


800 g stewing beef

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 sprigs oregano

2 sprigs rosemary

4 basil leaves

2 small onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 yellow pepper, sliced into small strips

3 garlic chives, chopped

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp crushed, dried garlic

2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed

70 g prunes, chopped

70 g dried peaches, chopped

1 cup corn kernels (or chunks of mielies)

1 glass red wine

2 cups vegetable stock

2 x 400 g cans chopped tomatoes

Parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 heaped Tbsp cornflour mixed with 3 Tbsp water


It’s a given that you should have a fire going to have a supply of coals. 

Heat 3 Tbsp oil in the potjie, with some coals under it. Add the diced beef and all the herbs, and cook, stirring now and then, until the meat browns and starts to catch at the bottom, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the level of heat.

Add the chopped onions, garlic, yellow pepper and chives, and the chilli and dried garlic, stir, and cook for a few minutes.

Add the cubed potatoes, corn, dried fruit, wine, stock and cans of chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook gently with coals underneath the potjie and on the lid until the meat is tender, which took, for me, a good four to five hours. When nearly ready, assess whether it needs thickening. If it does, dissolve some cornflour in water and stir it in, and leave it to simmer for another 20 minutes or so to thicken.

This is a slow potjie cook, so keep the coals low, just enough for a gentle bubble. Argentinians keep the pot going for five to six hours, but I think the heat of a potjie is more intense, so it will be a bit quicker. 

The sweetness that comes through from the prunes and peaches adds a perfect balance to the spice, and I had a fairly heavy hand with the black pepper and was very happy with the result. So good.

Serve with buttered mielie and rosemary braai bread; recipe coming up tomorrow. DM/TGIFood 

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected] 

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