A stew is as stew – or is it?

Words fascinate me and I confess to choosing to eat something – just because its name appeals to me.  I live in a country with eleven official languages – plus dialects.  Also, in South Africa, are peoples of Bushman descent whose languages are ancient and have either been lost, or are in danger of being lost; some have never been codified (written down). I ruminated about this when Jan Boer gave us oorskot (surplus) peaches. Because I have blogpals all over the world, I often wonder about the etymology of words, as I did when I decided to make a bredie a while back.  Bredie is a winter favourite and typical of Dutch South African cuisine.  Because my heritage is British, it’s not a word that was used in my childhood home.  We would have a stew or a casserole – identified by it’s main ingredient, i.e. beef, chicken or lamb mutton.


As is my wont, I began thinking about the etymology of bredie expecting it to have its roots in India or Malaysia.  The dictionary, says that a bredie (n) is a

Southern African a meat and vegetable stew

Its etymology was unexpected, but when I thought about it, very obvious.  It was the Portuguese – in the 15th Century – who first rounded the Cape, in the form of Bartolomeu Dias (or Bartholomew Dias, my primary school history taught me), on his way to the East.  He was the first European to have anchored off the South African coast;  there is a monument to his exploits in the Eastern Cape, near Alexandria, and not far from where I grew up.  The Portuguese went on to colonise not only bits of Africa (like Angola and Mozambique), but also India. “Bredie” has its roots in the Portuguese word, bredos or “edible greens.”

Now I know why every bredie – in one incarnation or another – includes vegetables.

The most common popular, is a tomato bredie which, come to think of it, really does show its Portuguese roots.  It’s not my favourite because it’s too reminiscent of boarding school and university cuisine .  The two that I prefer, and make, are butternut and waterblommetjie.  Waterblommetjies (little water flowers) are indigenous and grow in the natural waterways, ponds and dams in the Western Cape, and flower in spring.

An original fusion food

Stews are a fantastic, nutritious way to use inexpensive cuts of meat – and they are usually the most flavoursome.  I am not fond of beef and I find that stewed beef can be like eating blocks of soft wood.  It was also going to be a one-pot supper.

This brings me back to the bredie:  traditionally it’s made with mutton or lamb – fat cuts like rib or neck.  I prefer the latter – there’s less fat and more meat and it’s equally flavoursome.  I’ve already alluded to the vegetable components that make the variations on the theme. The constituent vegetable determines the spice (or herb) flavourings that are added (which, incidentally, also cut the fat).  This is the influence of the East – India and Malaysia – making the bredie an original fusion food.

The Boers were descendants of the Dutch colonists, and who trekked to the hinterland of South Africa;  the Malay folk were slaves and religious exiles sent to Africa.  Much of the food in South African homes is a fusion of our rich history.

Butternut Bredie

You will need an appropriate quantity of lamb or mutton stewing meat (I used neck), one or two onions, a  green pepper (or a chilli if you like a bit of heat), a clove of garlic, a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and a stick of cinnamon;  butternut – cut into cubes or chunks and potato, similarly prepared.

Sauté the chopped onion, pepper/chilli, garlic and ginger, and then seal the meat in the same pan.    Put the meat into the slow cooker and then deglaze the pan with a little water or stock to make a gravy.  Add the remaining vegetables and then pour the liquid over that and put on the lid.

“Fire up” the slow cooker and leave it alone to develop into a wonderful rich bredie – a good few hours.  The vegetables will be tender and the meat will be soft and fall off the bones!

A note about the fat:  for those who are Banting, it’s not a concern.  For those who don’t like it – there was much less fat than I expected.  Don’t shun fat – that’s where the flavour comes from!

Bredie served with rice and sambals for a Sunday Supper a couple of years ago or so.

Traditionally, bredies are served with boiled rice, but I’m sure it’s good with pap (corn porridge or grits (for my American readers) – a bit like polenta) and other vegetables.

Download the recipe

A while ago, I decided (for my own convenience and yours, to create downloadable versions of the recipes I dream up.  Download a PDF version of the recipe (and its variations) here.

A last word

A stew is not a stew when it’s a bredie!


The original iteration of this was posted a couple of years ago.  I’ve been able to “re-constitute it” because the original is stored for posterity on the blockchain and using the @exxp plugin, was able to download and tweak it to post back up here.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

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    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.