Are you ready for a big bite of everything, ever?
South Africa’s Bobotie (ba-boor-tea) reminds me of when I was a little girl, playing in the kitchen next to mom. I’d dump every possible ingredient into my little inventions, hoping they’d come out amazing. While chopped apples and pickles didn’t pan out when I was a kid, bobotie most decidedly does.
But don’t worry – there’s no apple or pickle in it.
So what is in it?
Some people call Bobotie South African Moussaka, but I’m not convinced that gives the dish enough credit. My friend Janine says Bobotie is from the Cape Malay region and belies much more Indian influence.
At her most basic, Bobotie is a spiced meat casserole topped with egg custard and a few bay leaves. Inside, you’ll find everything from rich curry power, to garlic, ginger, lemon juice, raisins, and almonds. There’s even a scoop of chutney.
While this all sounds incredibly overwhelming, the ingredients mellow as they cook. Still not sure? Trust years of history: there’s a reason South Africans love this dish so much.
Traditionally, the meat is cooked over a charcoal grill, then placed in an underground oven to bake out the custard.
Now a days, bobotie is more often made in regular ovens.
Either way, it tastes like happiness. Times a hundred.
Fills one cast iron pan or small casserole
1 slice white bread
1 cup milk
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp butter
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 lemon, juiced & zested
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in a little warm water
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 spoonful mango chutney (in a pinch, apricot jam may be substituted)
salt & pepper
For the topping
milk (from soaking bread)
1/4 tsp turmeric
First find a gorgeous vista to cook by. Let it be your muse.
Then, preheat the oven to 350F.
Soak the bread in milk. Set it aside.
Meanwhile, fry onion, ginger and garlic in butter until softened and beginning to brown.
Now you have a choice to make.
You can just keep adding ingredients to the pan, frying and cooking and stirring until it’s a happy mess…
… or do what I did, and treat it like meatloaf.
It’s a little unconventional (a.k.a. not traditional), but I tried it both ways and found the flavors got into the meat better with this method (and it makes the almonds a bit softer).
It’s really easy… In a large bowl, mix beef, curry, lemon juice, zest, raisins, almonds, chutney, salt, pepper, and the soaked bread (squeeze it dry first and be sure to reserve the milk). You can add in the cooled onion mixture, too.
Use your hands to really mash it around, until everything is evenly distributed.
Now fry it up in a hot pan, using more butter as needed. Give it a taste and adjust seasonings. I added a little extra chutney… just because.
Once you’re happy with the flavor, prepare the custard. Simply whisk the eggs into the reserved milk with a bit of turmeric, salt,and pepper. Pour over the meat mixture.
Dot with bay leaves …
Bake about 20 minutes, or until the egg is set.
Meanwhile, take a stroll in your garden (or any garden) and listen to the birds.
They might have a secret to tell you.
Let cool for about 15 minutes, then slice and serve with yellow rice and a smile.
Have you ever made anything like bobotie? What did you think of it? If not, do you see yourself making this in the future? Why or why not?