If there is any lesson to be taken from Mma Ramotswe, Botswana’s No. 1 Lady Detective, it would be that bush tea is the solution to every problem that exists under the sun. But there is more to Botswana’s gastronomic culture than that mild honey scented brew. In fact there is one dish that you are almost always guaranteed to find at big events such as weddings and even during Botswana’s independence day celebrations. This popular dish is known as seswaa; boiled then pounded beef.
This big event dish would normally be prepared in traditional 3 legged pots over an open wood fire. In fact, this is a dish that is prepared mainly by men who can put a bit of muscle into pounding and shredding the beef once cooked. In honour of Botswana’s recent 46th independence celebration, I decided to make an easier version of this dish by slow cooking it in my cast iron casserole dish. My mother would chastise me for cooking seswaa this way, but as far as I am concerned, this got the job done beautifully (sorry mother).
The traditional recipe is extremely simple and has only 3 ingredients: beef (with bones), salt and water. I decided to make mine with a boneless cut of beef, suitable for slow cooking. My butcher recommended ox cheek, but any type of slow cooking or casserole meat will do.
800g slow cooking beef
1 whole onion (optional)
3 bay leaves
Salt to taste
Black pepper (optional)
Water (enough to just cover the meat)
1. Pre heat oven to 160 degrees celcius. Cut meat into large chunks then brown in a dish suitable for slow cooking in the oven, I used a cast iron casserole dish.
2. Add whole peeled onion, salt, cracked black pepper, water and leaves. Bring to the boil then cover and place into the oven for 4 hours.
3. After 4 hours, remove from oven and place onto stove burner in order to cook off remaining liquid. Use a wooden spoon to pound or mash up the meat, the meat should fall apart quite easily.and will appear shredded. You may brown the meat further if desired.
4. Check seasoning then serve with polenta or the more traditional pap (sadza /thick corn meal porridge) and a side of green vegetables.