Tuesday 27 May 2014

Winter Weather Food: Traditional Groenboontjie Bredie

Perhaps better described as green bean stew for my friends overseas. But something is lost in the translation, methinks. The Afrikaans language just has that extra ring to it.

Most of us grew up with some version of this dish. Cubed meat, some tomatoes and green beans. It is one of those dishes that warms the cockles of your heart on a cold, stormy Cape winter day. The sauce part of it should be quite thick, otherwise you end up with a modified soup. Not what I would recommend.

But that is my idea of what the dish should be like. Slowly simmered, the meat will fall to pieces. And the flavors will be enhanced by the caramelized onion and meat bits on the bottom of the saucepan.

In my younger days these traditional stewed dishes used to be made from meat that was quite fatty. I like the fat, but tend to trim it to some reasonable level. You don't want the fat to set in a half inch thick layer on top. I also  like to add the odd marrow bone. I rather like the flavors so imparted.

Both beef and mutton will do for this dish. You don't need the most expensive cuts as you will be cooking the meat for a long time anyway, until it goes soft like marrow. By this time the sauce should be quite nice and thick too.

Just what you want on a cold winter's evening.

Green beans may not be in season. You may substitute with any other green hard vegetables. I just closed my eyes and bought beans at an exorbitant price. I also added a can of sugar beans that I washed before adding them. The sauce is thick enough. You can also add some mushrooms towards the end. My missus put her foot down on this one, so I bowed to her tastes for this one.

Mushrooms go well with a chicken version, along with broccoli and cauliflower.

I prefer to use the whole peeled canned tomatoes as opposed to the chopped tomatoes. The whole peeled ones cook to a thick sauce, while the chopped version doesn't. The whole peeled tomatoes give a thick and creamy consistency to the sauce.

Add a little sugar if the sauce seems too tangy. It may be the tomatoes coming through too strongly. And add some good quality beef stock. Beef tends to be on the dry side. The stock will help to make the sauce creamier.

This dish is the simplicity itself in terms of ingredients. The process is not intricate either. There is only a sequence of adding ingredients. That's it. Done and dusted.

This dish goes well with rice. Any rice. Use Basmati rice on a special occasion. The dish will go  well with couscous too.

Here goes.


500 g mutton or stewing beef, medium fat, cubed
400 g green beans cut French style
1 can (400 g) whole peeled tomatoes
1 sachet tomato puree or -paste
1 can sugar beans, drained and washed
2 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
1 small hot chili
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed
some butter for frying
some oil for frying
some soy sauce
some water
1 cup beef stock. I used 2 generous teaspoons of stock powder
salt and pepper to taste
some origanum for garnish


Heat the butter in the saucepan. Add the onions and fry until translucent to golden brown. Add the garlic and chili and fry for fifteen seconds. Add the meat and a dollop of oil. This will prevent the butter from overheating.

Fry the meat until brown, then add a dollop of soy sauce. This provides flavour and some salt. Add the can of tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir well and reduce the heat to minimum. The dish must now simmer until the meat is tender. Add some water if required.

When the meat is tender, add the potatoes. I cut them quite thin, then they cook quickly. Add the beans when the potatoes start to get soft. The beans are already cooked, so they only need to warm up and absorb some flavour. You may add mushrooms at this stage if you so choose.

Add the origanum, salt and pepper to taste. Douse the flame and allow the dish to repose. The meat should be quite tender now, falling to pieces.

Meanwhile cook the rice.

Then dish up.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-05-27

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