What’s cooking today: Sizzling Spanish lamb neck potjie
The bright and lusty colours and flavours of Spain can give a South African lamb potjie all the drama of the paso doble and the flair of the swirling flamenco skirt.
Spanish cuisine is often overlooked in favour of the food of other Mediterranean nations, whether southern French, Italian, Greek or even the delightful food of the country’s near neighbour, Portugal, a culture beloved of South Africans. But Spain’s food is no less distinctive than the famous ballroom dances of its exotic, instantly recognisable traditional culture.
The bright red, yellow and green of bell peppers, the tang of olives, the spike of chilli and its culinary derivatives, and of course the inevitable garlic and tomato, can be combined to impressive use in a potjie.
Add the sherry that the country is also famous for, even if it is a beloved South African version of it, and you’re en route to a very lekker lazy-day supper indeed. And lazy weekend days are what potjies are all about.
1 kg lamb neck off the bone, in four pieces cut lengthwise
3 or 4 Tbsp olive oil
8 baby red onions, whole, peeled
1 large red pepper, halved, deseeded and sliced julienne
1 large yellow pepper, halved, deseeded and sliced julienne
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes (not drained)
2 small red chillies, seeded and sliced
1 cup of black or green olives or a mixture of both, and ½ a cup of the brine
250 ml Old Brown sherry
250 ml beef or lamb stock
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
An expensive pinch of saffron
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 heaped Tbsp cornflour mixed with two thirds of a ramekin of milk or cold water
Prepare hot coals and keep adding wood for the duration of the potjie cook.
Place hot coals under a clean, empty potjie and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, brown the strips of lamb neck two pieces at a time, turning until it is well browned on all sides.
Add the baby red onions, peppers and garlic and give it a good stir.
Pour the beef or lamb stock into a 1 litre jug with the contents of a can of chopped tomatoes, the sherry, balsamic vinegar, the chillies, olives and brine, and the garlic and bay leaves. Pour all of this into the potjie and stir well so everything is distributed all over.
Season well with salt and pepper, cover, and keep enough coals beneath the pot and a few on the lid so that it cooks gently for about 3 hours or until the lamb is fall-off-the-bone tender.
Half an hour before it is done, add the saffron and stir. Fifteen minutes later, stir in the diluted cornflour, cover and continue cooking for the cooking stock to thicken.
Serve with couscous or rice. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
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