Take the puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw for later use.
Use a large, sharp knife to cut the chicken into 6 portions. Cut off and throw away all the excess skin.
Heat the oil in the potjie over a hot fire and fry the chicken portions for about 10 minutes until they are golden brown. Add the salt and pepper during this time.
Add the onion, garlic and thyme. Fry until the onions start to soften.
Now it’s time for the stock, sherry/wine, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick to go in. When the potjie starts to simmer, put the lid on and cook over a few coals for 1 hour.
Add the diced potato and mushrooms, then stir lightly and cook for another 30 minutes.
Now take the chicken pieces out of the pot and throw away the cinnamon stick. Give the chicken 15 minutes to cool down before you debone it.
While the chicken is cooling, check on the liquid in the potjie. If it’s a bit too watery, keep the lid off and let the liquid reduce a bit, but not too much.
You can fire up the potjie by adding a few more coals under it to help in this process.
When the chicken pieces are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and throw away the skin and bones.
Flake the larger pieces of meat with your fingers.
Put the chicken back into the simmering pot, pour in the cream and stir well. Taste the meal before you adjust with salt and pepper as it might or might not need some.
When the pie filling in the potjie is nearly ready (after about an hour, while the chicken is cooling), unroll the puff pastry from the packet.
Now you have two options: either cut the pastry into the shape of the bowls you’re going to serve the pies in, or cut it into squares that you will put on top of the filling on plates or in bowls.
Braai the pastry shapes in an oiled, closed hinged grid for about 20 minutes over very mild coals. Turn the grid often until the pastry is golden brown and crispy.
Be careful not to braai too fast as it will burn quite easily.
Serve by dishing up the filling into bowls or onto plates and then put the braaied pieces of pastry on top of each of them. Recipe reprinted with permission of JanBraai from his latest book 'Red Hot'.