The best oxtail potjie recipe is one that’s simple and easy, tastes incredible, and is a joy to make. This one ticks all the boxes. Sip from your bottle of red wine as you chop ingredients – you won’t need the whole bottle for the potjie, and you wouldn’t want it to go to waste!
I prepared this oxtail potjie on a camping trip at Beaverlac just a few hours outside of Cape Town. On a day so hot we followed the shade of a tree all afternoon, and only left our tiny oasis to stir, stoke the fire, or add a quick few ingredients. So I was sure to whittle it down to only the necessary activity.
With this potjie, it’s all about fresh, good ingredients. The meat and wine make it rich and decadent. The mushrooms and potatoes absorb the dense flavours. And the red peppers and patty pans provide a fresh, soft taste that breaks with that richness. All together, it’s the best South African potjie we’ve ever had!
How to make your oxtail potjie
The first thing you’ll need for your potjie is a proper potjie pot. This is a cast-iron round-belied pot with three legs. It stays sturdy with no threat of buckling, perfectly capable of bubbling directly on the fire.
When you have the right pot, make a proper braai fire – preferably on the ground or a solid brick fireplace. Basically, anything solid. Webers and other standing braai stands may not be able to handle the weight of this heavy cast-iron pot and the ingredients bubbling in it. And after a few hours on the fire, it would be a tragedy if everything suddenly buckled and fell.
So, you need to be sure that your fireplace is solid. Make a fire, and once it’s ready, scoot a little of the burnt-down logs over to the side and place your potjie on there. This will allow it to cook while the larger fire is still burning brightly.
Oxtail Potjie Recipe
- 1 kg fresh oxtail
- 500 g bacon optional, but surprisingly welcome addition to the flavours
- 2 large red onions
- 250 g punnet of mushrooms halved
- 2 large stalks celery roughly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 250 g yellow patty pans or zucchini, halved
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 packet tomato paste
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 350 ml red wine
- 10 - 15 baby potatoes unpeeled
- 5 - 7 carrots thickly cut
- 2 sachets beef stock
- 2 cups water
- Get your fire going, and once you’ve burned at least some of the wood down to coals, move that over to the side and set the potjie pot on it. The pot has three legs so it should stand comfortably, but you can also set it a little higher on bricks or flat rocks.
- Start chopping your vegetables, beginning with red onions, mushrooms (these should just be halved to keep them reasonably chunky), and celery.
- Add a generous dollop of olive oil, about two tablespoons worth, before throwing in the vegetables. If, like us, you’re making it on a camping trip or during a summer day, I recommend you chop in the shade and just shoot out to pop things into the pot when you need to.
- While your veggies are frying up, add the oxtail and cubed bacon and stir everything together. Fry, stirring every few minutes, for about 10 minutes.
- Add garlic and fry for another 3 minutes.
- Add a can of tomatoes, 2 cups of water, 2 sachets beef stock, tomato paste, and 350g red wine (roughly one and a half cups). Mix all together and allow to come to a boil.
- After 20-30 minutes (timing isn’t too important for oxtail potjies, it’s one of their big draws) add whole baby potatoes and thickly cut carrots. I cut my carrots in nice chunky thirds.
- Give the potjie two hours to slowly cook, stirring every half hour and adding water if you need to.
- Chop patty pans in halves and bell peppers into large chunks. Add them to the potjie, toss a little extra wine in, and cook together for another 30 minutes.
- Finally, dish into bowls and serve with fresh bread. Because of the wine and the richness of oxtail, you’re not likely to need salt, but add as necessary after tasting.
A traditional South African oxtail recipe
There you have it, our absolute favourite oxtail potjie! With rich, textured flavours and meat that falls right off the bone, it’s absolutely delicious. It’s also enjoyably smokey and gamey, a real crowd-pleaser. You’ll be dishing large chunks of meat and bone into your bowl, along with all the complimentary veggie bits.
While it can technically be made for eight people, we were six and all went back for seconds, finishing it up quickly. So if you’re a larger group, remember to extend a bit! If you’re a smaller one, keep things the same and you’ll be happy to have the extra!
And while you’ve got your fire going, consider adding roosterkoek — they make a fantastic pairing.