Bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tee) is one of the most controversial dish in South African cuisine. It holds a very dear place in the heart of most South Africans, but once it leaves the shores of the African continent…Well, that’s when the trouble starts.
When I try to describe it to people, concluding with “and it’s delicious!” they never look convinced. Bobotie is a dish comprising of spiced, fruity mincemeat with a savoury custard topping, similar to moussaka…And it’s delicious! See? You don’t believe me. I knew you wouldn’t. And I don’t blame you, either. It doesn’t even look appetising. When a contestant on Masterchef announces that they’re making bobotie, the judges look instantly nauseated. I’ll be honest, it even took me until I was 15 to start tolerating the dish.
But please don’t let any of that put you off. Once my palate was mature enough to handle the flavours, it was only a few years until bobotie made its way into my top 10 dishes, and I’m not alone – it holds a very dear place in the hearts of most South Africans. And it’s not just the Saffa’s – every Brit that I’ve ever introduced to bobotie has loved it. Some of you may recall that I took a couple of British friends to South Africa with me last year, and to my surprise, they ordered bobotie three times in two weeks! I can only conclude that Masterchef contestants have been doing it wrong…
Bobotie has been around since the 1600’s, and recipes can vary enormously – it’s one of those dishes that every family has their own family recipe for! I’m unable to give you my own family’s recipe, as I’m sworn to secrecy…Not to mention the fact that the flavours are pretty intense, which is probably why it took me so long to fall for it! Instead, I’ve put together a recipe that you can easily adjust to suit your personal taste, creating your own family recipe!
Serve with yellow rice (recipe below), green vegetables or a salad to cut through the sweetness, and some sambals…Or as you might know them, condiments ;) My preference is for plenty of Mrs Balls, some thinly sliced fresh banana, and finely chopped tomato and onion with a little salt and pepper.
Bobotie – Serves 6
1kg beef mince
3tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tbsp apricot jam
3 heaped tbsp fruit chutney (Mrs Balls would be the South African choice here)
2 slices white bread, crusts removed
4 medium eggs
1 tbsp medium curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 beef stock cube, crumbled and dissolved in a little water
25ml lemon juice
4 bay leaves
Stage 1: Grease an oven-proof dish, and pre-heat the oven to 180?c/Gas Mark 4.
Stage 2: Sauté the onions in the oil over a medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and fry off of a further minute.
Stage 3: Add the mince and fry until lightly browned.
Stage 4: Lower the heat. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, curry powder, chutney, jam, lemon juice and stock. Mix thoroughly.
Stage 5: Soak the bread in the milk for around three minutes. Now for my favourite bit – squeeze milk from the bread and retain the milk for later. Break up the bread and add it to the meat, mixing thoroughly.
Stage 6: Lightly beat two of the eggs and mix into the meat mixture, before spooning it into the oven-proof dish.
Stage 7: Beat the remaining eggs into the retained milk, and pour slowly over the meat. Garnish with the bay leaves. If you are splitting the bobotie between multiple oven dishes, you might need a bit more milk and another egg.
Stage 8: Place in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the custard topping is golden and completely set.
Yellow Rice – Serves 6
500g rice (long grained or basmati)
3 tsp turmeric
1 large stick cinnamon
1 ½ tsp salt
2 ½ tbsp light brown sugar
Stage 1: Add the rice, raisins, turmeric, cinnamon, sugar and salt to a pan of water, and cook according to the instructions on the packet of rice.
Stage 2: Drain the rice in a colander and remove the cinnamon stick.
Stage 3: Add the butter and mix it through the rice with a fork, fluffing the rice as you go. Serve immediately.
The spicing, chutney and jam are essential if you want to get a good sense of what bobotie is about, but if you’re nervous about the fruit/meat combination, then my suggestion would be to reduce (or even exclude) the raisins and just get used to the basic flavours of the dish.
On the other hand, if you’re up for trying something really different then finely chop a couple of bananas and add them to the meat mixture at Stage 4. While you’re at it, why not add a couple of chopped apples and cook them up with the onions?! Yum!
Other recipes include almonds, coconut, dried apricots, dried apples…The opportunities are endless! I’d love you to get experimenting with bobotie, and if you think that you’ve come up with a version to rival our family recipe then I’d love to hear from you and give it a try!
So come on, wake up those tired old taste buds and give bobotie a go!