Everyone loves bush dinner in the wilderness – the ancient ritual of sitting together with friends after dusk, and sharing a meal as the stars begin to flicker above and the night animals begin their chorus: the bark of a leopard, the trill call of a nightjar, or the howl of a jackal echoing in the bush.
At Tintswalo, we often host bush and boma dinners out in the Manyeleti, and the food our chefs create for these occasions is so tasty and memorable that guests often ask for recipes so they can try a barbeque at home. So, after chatting to our talented chefs, we came up with one of our most loved bush recipes, as a reminder of Africa and times spent with friends around the fire.
Oxtail Potjie Stew
The secret to making a great Oxtail is a big pot. In South Africa, we call it a potjie, and it’s a huge steel pot with a lid and handle that you can place directly on the fire. The other key to a great Oxtail stew is time. You need to begin cooking by 10am latest, so have all your ingredients ready to go the day before, and your fire nice and hot before you start.
Vegetables: First put your fresh veggies in the pot and mix them together. These include
Grill the oxtail so that it can brown a little bit.
Then put it in the oven on high for a few minutes to brown it some more before you put it into the pot.
Throw in some spices and fresh herbs, including
Put everything into a big pot with a little bit of wine, and then add a few cups of beef stock, depending on how much food you want to make. It’s always good to also put a bit of chutney and HP sauce in the mix to balance the sweetness and break down the meat to make it less tough. Remember to start cooking around 10am; because the longer you cook, the softer it will get. We try not to begin cooking after 12 because then it’s too late. So make sure it keeps cooking right up unto service.
An important step is to have enough fire to keep the food simmering nicely until guests arrive. The hotter it is when you pour it onto the plate, the better
We usually serve our bush dinners with three types of salad: Garden salad, pepper and corn salad, and a beetroot or potato salad.
What is a bush dinner in Africa without pap? This staple food is the love of the nation, and it goes perfectly with an oxtail potjie stew because of the rich, thick and creamy sauce that pours over the pap. To make it, you simply boil the water, add in maize meal with a little bit of salt, and then slowly cook it while adding a bit of extra maize meal to thicken it up, until it feels like a nice thick consistency. Easy for grabbing with two fingers (the traditional way of eating pap).
If you feel like it, you can grill (braai) some extra meat on the side like venison or chicken sosati. The other favourite is to braai a warthog (some don’t like the idea of this). For this, you can put a bit of filling inside the waterhog and then wrap it in bacon before throwing it all on the fire.
Time to eat
This meal is best served outside under the stars as the smoke drifts up through the towering fig trees above. There’s simply nothing better than arriving from a day of game viewing, having seen lions and leopards and elephants, and sitting down to a hot meal that’s been simmering on the fire all day.
Try the recipe at home on an open fire and send us the pictures – we would love to see your own bush dinner experiments and recipes.