How to Make Bobotie
Dishes of Our Past – Good Food Travels Well
Food! What expatriate doesn’t love the traditional food of their homeland? Many of our African foods have traveled to other countries. I was once asked for the recipe for bobotie when I was living in East Sussex. And this was from a Sussex native who’d never left the UK and had eaten the dish once when visiting a friend.
It’s the spices, providing aromas associated forever with a past we can never visit. The haunting evocative flavors of curries and stews, sauces and puddings, the comforts of generations long gone.
As big a subject as the continent itself, as diverse as the cultures contributing to these traditions over the centuries, South African food is a bejeweled patchwork of the peoples who have been coming to Africa for eons.
The mouth-watering food of the Cape Malays has been associated with South Africa since they first arrived in the Cape in the late 1600s. You’ll find Malay inspired foods on indigenous menus all over the country, in tourist hot spots, modest home kitchens and famous game reserves.
Bobotie is one of the best-known dishes and very easy to re-create in any kitchen anywhere in the world. If exotic dishes scare you, just think of this as a glorified meatloaf. The ingredients are not so exotic as to be unobtainable but the real magic happens in the oven.
Serves – 6
- 1 kg (2 lbs) minced mutton or beef
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 30 ml (2 T) canola (or olive oil – not traditional)
- 15 – 30 ml (1-2 T) curry powder – depending on your “heat” tolerance.
- 5 ml (1 t) turmeric
- 30 ml (2 T) lemon juice
- 15 ml (1 T) sugar (not brown)
- 5 ml (1 t) salt
- A few grindings of fresh black pepper
- 1 slice plain, brown bread
- 1 Cup (250 ml) milk
- 2 large eggs
- A couple of handfuls of seedless raisins – half a cup
- 45 ml (3 T) of fruit chutney (Mrs Balls – at SA food shops and some supermarkets)
- 2 bay leaves
- A handful of sliced almonds
- 6 lemon leaves
In a heavy bottom saucepan, fry the onions in the oil until lightly colored. Add the turmeric and curry powder and fry gently for 1 -2 minutes whilst stirring continually. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.
Soak the bread in the milk then press out the excess milk and save. Set the bread aside.
Crumble the raw mince into a pan and add a little water – about 1/3 cup – and cook for 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Gently combine the meat, soaked mashed bread, onion/spice mixture, raisins and chutney and mix well. Pack into a greased casserole dish, place bay leaves on top and bake in a medium oven (180 degrees C) for 1 – 1½ hours.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the sliced almonds and arrange the lemon leaves on top. Beat the eggs with the reserved milk (add more milk to make it up to 250 ml (1 Cup) and a pinch of salt. Pour this mixture carefully over the meat and return the casserole to the oven; reducing the heat to 160 degrees, C. Bake for 30 minutes until the custard is set.
Serve the bobotie with rice and a simple salad. Thinly sliced bananas (sprinkled with lemon juice), chutney, and desiccated/dried coconut can be served as sambals alongside the bobotie. Some people like to have their babotie with mielie pap, so for a mielie pap receipe, go over to this entry of mine.