Lag BaOmer Poike

Photo by אסף.צ https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%AA%D7%9E%D7%A9:%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%A3.%D7%A6

Photo: אסף .צ

Israel owes one of its most popular Lag BaOmer traditions to the Jewish community of South Africa. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the proudly Zionist South African Jews provided it with the most financial support per capita of any other community in the diaspora. Just as importantly, the South African olim introduced the potjie (pronounced “poike”) to Israel. This special pot, and the stew named for it, is an indispensable part of the Israeli Lag BaOmer celebration.

A potjie is a type of Dutch oven that was brought to South Africa by the Boer colonists from the Netherlands in the 1800s. This cast iron cauldron means “little pot.” It has three small legs and a wire handle. It can be nestled among the coals of a campfire or suspended over a flame.

To prepare the potjie stew, a little oil is heated in the Dutch oven. Then, lamb cubes are browned. Some alcohol is added for flavor, usually beer, sherry, or dessert wine. The potjie chef seasons the stew, usually very conservatively. Amazingly, garlic is not a popular ingredient. The pot is covered tightly with the lid, and the stew is left to steam slowly. It is not customary to stir the contents of the pot, so that when the potjie is ready, there are layers of flavors in the stew.

Photo By Chrstphr.jones (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Chrstpher Jones

Lamb Potjie
Adapted from Joburg South
4 pounds cubed lamb
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
1/2 lb. green beans, with the ends cut off
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin

Heat the pot over medium hot coals.
Combine the flour, salt, cumin, and coriander.
Coat the lamb cubes with the flour mixture.
Heat the olive oil in the pot.
Brown the lamb cubes.
Take the lamb cubes out of the pot and set aside.
Place the onions and celery in the pot, and fry them a little bit.
Add the lamb cubes to the vegetables.
Pour in the stock, red wine, fresh thyme, and bay leaves.
Close the lid tightly and allow to cook for one hour.
Add the potatoes.
After 30 minutes, add the carrots.
Cook for 15 minutes, and add the green beans.
Wait 10 minutes.
Serve with rice, noodles, or fresh pita bread.