Last Updated on March 6, 2022
When I was offered a box of mutton from Roast Mutton in the Lake District (see our review of Roast Mutton on London Unattached) I was especially pleased to discover that the butcher, Rob, offered a bespoke butchery service. This meant that I could request a pack of neck chops – rather than the meat being removed from the bone. I immediately began to plan to cook a dish I have rarely made but always loved. It is a slow-cooked tomato stew, a traditional South African dish that I grew up eating. It is called tomato bredie – bredie being the Afrikaans word for stew, usually made with mutton and vegetables. Like so many slow-cooked meat-based stews, the end result is tender, falling off the bone meat suffused with flavour.
Skip straight to my recipe for Tomato Bredie
The recipe for this stew is very simple and the added vinegar in the ingredient list is, to my mind, an essential one as it balances the dish beautifully. As with all traditional recipes, any household will have its way of making the best version of tomato bredie. This is how it was made in mine. It is a wonderful meal to come home to on a cold winter’s night, but to my mind is equally delicious in the summer when tomatoes are at their best.
If you cannot get hold of mutton you can, of course, make this dish with lamb. Use a heavy-bottomed casserole dish as it distributes heat well and I find the food does not stick to the bottom when cooking over several hours. Once you have browned the meat well, add the onions and let them cook until golden. I like to add my garlic only once the onions are well on their way to being cooked else I find the garlic tends to burn which makes it taste bitter. The next step is to add the chopped tomatoes. I did have a good think about this because tomatoes in the winter in UK supermarkets do not have much flavour. I toyed with using tinned tomatoes instead and this is an option if all you can get are miserable tomatoes. In the end, I decided to opt for ripe plum tomatoes which I find tastier than the ordinary kind I use for sandwiches. In hotter countries, this insipid tomato issue is less of a problem as there the produce ripens in the hot sun and is far sweeter.
Once the vinegar and brown sugar are added along with seasoning, bay leaves and stock, your stew simmers away slowly for a couple of hours. One of the joys of this dish is the way the potatoes – only added for the last 45 minutes – begin to fall apart into the stew. It is a sweet spot of potato loveliness. They have absorbed the deeply delicious stew juices and are just holding together.
As with all stews, try to make this the day before you want to eat it as it will taste better the next day or even the day after that. I enjoy this stew with a simple pot of brown rice.
- 850 grams mutton neck
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic chopped
- 12 ripe plum tomatoes roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- salt and pepper
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tsp dark brown sugar
- 1 splash Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup chicken stock use beef stock if you prefer
- 4 large potatoes peeled and quartered
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole and brown meat on all sides on a medium-high heat.
- Add chopped onion and cook until they are golden. Then add the garlic and cook for a further two to three minutes until you can smell the garlic. Be careful that the garlic does not burn.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and all the other ingredients except for the potatoes. Stir gently to combine.
- Cover the casserole and reduce heat so that the stew can simmer. Continue to cook for two hours or until the meat is very tender. Check every now and then that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the casserole. Top up with a little water if it is looking dry.
- When the meat is tender, add the potatoes and cook until soft which should take around 45 minutes.
- Ideally let the stew cool and refrigerate overnight. Reheat the following day when the flavour will have developed. Serve with rice.