Cooking with Gas

A potjie on gas

Plant expert Gerald Schofield has some hidden talents when it comes to preparing food. He tends to take a while to perfect a recipe, sometimes even years, but when he declares it done, it is very, very good. Here he shares his perfected potjie recipe, full of vegetables and flavour.

Beef short rib potjie

1.5 kg beef short rib and soft shin, cut into rectangular pieces
3-4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon steakhouse seasoning
50 ml olive oil
50 ml sunflower oil
6 large jam tomatoes, skinned and quartered
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into slivers
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
1 punnet of button mushrooms, quartered
1 whole bulb of garlic
1 small bunch of spring onions, chopped
20-25 small pickling onions, peeled
1 x 400 g can of cannellini beans
1 x 70 g can of tomato paste
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
100 ml brandy
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 cups water or beef stock
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
4-6 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
300 g long-stem broccoli
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix the flour with steakhouse seasoning, salt and pepper and coat the meat. Heat the olive and sunflower oil in the potjie and add the coated meat, cooking it until browned. Add the rest of the ingredients except the broccoli, and stir. Put the lid on the pot and cook over a medium to low heat for 1½-2 hours. Add the broccoli at the end, check the seasoning, cook for a further 3 minutes and serve.

Grow your own:

Whether you refer to it as eggplant, aubergine, or brinjal, Solanum melongena is a staple food in Asia and Africa and is often used to make the meal go further by bulking up stews and absorbing flavours. While we usually grow the glossy black varieties, they can also be found round and yellow, long and pale green or light purple, or white and golden. These are all unique in everything but flavour. On average, six plants can provide a family of four with about three portions per person per week.
• Brinjals are a long crop, taking 85-100 days to harvest. Sow in spring and summer in trays and transplant into the garden 500 mm apart.
• They need fertile, free-draining soil with generous amounts of compost and some organic fertiliser to provide enough nutrients until the plants set flower.
• Plant in full sun.
• In pots, plant brinjals using 50% mature compost, 25% washed river sand and 25% vermiculite or palm-peat brick.
• They will need plenty of water, especially when producing fruit. Plants in pots should be watered daily.
• Start feeding when the first fruit starts to set, using a fertiliser for fruit and flowers and repeating every two weeks. A plant dropping flowers is a sign of a potassium deficiency – use an organic 3:1:5 or 5:1:5 fertiliser to counteract the problem.
• A water-stressed plant is prone to aphids. Remove the bottom leaves up to 30 cm to prevent mildew and fungal diseases. Watch out for red spider mite and if necessary spray underneath the leaves with an organic insecticide.
• Stems can break with the weight of fruit and may need to be staked – this is especially true for larger varieties.
• Over-ripe fruit tends to be bitter. Pick fruit using secateurs before this stage – as soon as the fruit loses its glossiness it is over-ripe.

TIP:  Salting is not necessary if your brinjals are fresh, but if they are bitter, salt them for an hour, wash the salt off and pat dry before cooking.

The Gardener