This tomato bredie recipe makes a classic Cape Town stew. This bredie (an Afrikaans word meaning ‘stew’) is a slow-cooked mutton and tomato stew. The variety and amount of spices added have an infinite variety of permeations. This is my version of the tomato bredie inspired by our time in Cape Town.
Jet lag makes you do the strangest things. We had arrived at our Camps Bay holiday rental in Cape Town in the late afternoon after three flights that took us half way around the world, desperate to try to get our body clocks – by this stage just a collection of springs and gears in a shoebox – on local time.
We forced ourselves to go for a walk along the beach at Camps Bay then headed out to dinner, even though our bodies just wanted to head straight for the sheets and pillows, and dreams of not flying for a very long time. Of course the next morning at 5am, I was sitting upright in bed wide awake.
With Lara sleeping soundly, I tip-toed downstairs to make some tea. As the jug slowly boiled, I checked out the kitchen. Wow. Clearly someone here loved to bake, judging by all the oven trays, and there was every conceivable type of appliance. I was going to enjoy this kitchen.
Cookbooks on the kitchen shelf were well-thumbed and in the library there were even more cooking reference books. As I sipped my tea I thumbed through the South African cookbooks, now spread out on the lounge room coffee table. I quickly realised there was more to South African cooking than BBQ or braai, the Afrikaans word for roasted meats.
I started to think about what I might learn to make for Cape Town for my series The Dish, in which I share a recipe for a quintessential dish of each of the places we’re settling into for two weeks at a time on this yearlong global grand tour we’re doing.
Tomato Bredie Recipe for a Classic Cape Town Stew from South Africa
One dish that kept attracting my attention was the bredie – an Afrikaans word meaning ‘stew’. These kinds of slow cooked meat dishes have kept popping up on our trip. Check out the recipes for the French Cassoulet I made in Ceret, the Spanish Oxtail Stew I cooked in Jerez, and the Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds I learnt to cook in Marrakech and made in Essaouira.
These earthy dishes in many ways exemplify what we’re attempting with our travel experiment this year: to slow down, to learn how to live like locals, and to learn to cook a bit of the local food. What could make you feel more at home than the aromas of a local dish slow-cooking on a stove or in the oven? And this tomato bredie was as Cape Town as Table Mountain.
As with the other dishes above that I’ve written about this year, I found half a dozen conflicting tomato bredie recipes just thumbing through the cookbooks on the lounge room table, but what I quickly realised was that essentially the dish is a slow-cooked mutton and tomato stew. The number and amount of spices added has an infinite variety of permeations.
Tips to Making this Tomato Bredie Recipe
When we visited the District Six Museum, we spotted a tomato bredie recipe that substituted beef for lamb and included onions, garlic and ginger to spice it up. Tomatoes and tomato paste were added, along with sugar and seasoning. This, overlooking the fact that it’s better done with lamb, was a good base to work from. But note that you could very well make this with beef.
Some of the Cape Malay tomato bredie recipes that I came across consisted of a richer array of spices, often including cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, thyme, marjoram, and a good dash of chilli.
After sampling this dish in Cape Town restaurants a few times during our stay, and making it in the Camps Bay kitchen several times, I think I found the sweet spot with this recipe: a good mix of lamb pieces (you want fat and marrow) cooked for at least a couple of hours, a good rest overnight before reheating, and then add the potatoes.
Garnish with fragrant coriander and serve this tomato bredie recipe with some aromatic rice, and roti if possible, and a good South African Shiraz or some ice cold beer.
Update May 2022: If you love a good old-fashioned traditional stew, do check out our collection of our best stew recipes for more hearty winter warmers.
Tomato Bredie Recipe for a Classic Cape Town Stew
- 1.5 kilos ‘stewing’ lamb
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chilli flakes - optional
- 2 large onions - finely sliced
- 50 ml tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cm ginger - fresh, chopped into matchstick-sized strips
- 4 whole black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 whole cloves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp cumin seeds - crushed
- 1 tsp coriander seeds - crushed
- ½ kg medium tomatoes chopped - you can use tinned
- 4 medium potatoes - quartered, for the second day!
- Vegetable oil
- Dry ‘roast’ the dry spices in a hot saucepan.
- Add a good dash of vegetable oil to the pan and sautee the onions.
- Add the ginger, garlic and chili and cook for one minute.
- Pat dry the lamb. You can cook it with the onions etc, or separately until browned.
- Combine the above ingredients in a large pot or Dutch oven.
- Add about a cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and sugar. Cook over low heat until the meat easily breaks apart. Add water, a little stock or some red wine to keep the mix moist.
- Cool slightly and then place in the refrigerator overnight.
- Reheat the stew slowly. Start cooking your rice after adding the potatoes to the pot.
- While some recipes present it as a ‘dry’ curry (as in the last photo), I think it’s better left with a decent amount of gravy. Perfect for mopping up with some roti.
Do let us know if you made this tomato bredie recipe for a classic Cape Town stew in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.