Bobotie (pronounced Bab-oor-ti) is a casserole dish that South Africans get very excited about because of the depth of flavor in the curried ground beef combined with fruit like apples and raisins.
It is one of those comfort foods that remind people of home, and has spread from Cape Town outward across South Africa, and with the diaspora of South Africans, is spreading across the world.
The population group known in South Africa as Cape Malays were brought to South Africa, or rather The Cape of Good Hope as it was then known, in the 16th century. They were mainly Indonesian exiles and enslaved people from Malaysia and other parts of South East Asia.
The Dutch East India Company (DEIC) brought them over to establish a colony in the Cape, aimed primarily at supplying fresh produce to the DEIC ships travelling back and forth from Holland to the east.
With these people came recipes which they adapted to suit ingredients in South Africa, but retain much of the flavor and quirks of Asian food – like the penchant for adding an egg into dishes.
If you have ever traveled to Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia you will know that street food vendors and restaurants will serve their noodle or meat dishes with an extra egg broken into the mix and swirled through. It certainly makes the food even tastier, adding extra protein to dishes, and Bobotie is no exception.
It runs high to protein, making it an ideal choice for a fully rounded meal when served with yellow rice, with a little extra spice that makes your lips tingle.
One might call it the cottage pie of the east, but without the potato topping. Instead the topping is formed by mixing eggs and milk and when the dish is baked in the oven, it forms a thin custardy layer on top redolent with the flavor of the meat, but nothing even close to the 1 ½ to 2 inch layer of potato on a Shepherd’s Pie.
Bobotie is traditionally served with yellow rice prepared with spices and ground turmeric, to give it a golden yellow color.
- 1 tablespoon coconut or sunflower oil
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 2 fresh garlic cloves crushed
- 3 tablespoons mango or peach chutney
- 3 tablespoons raisins
- 1 apple grated
- 2 tablespoons mixed masala curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 slices white bread thick slices
- 3 cups milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 lime leaves
- Switch on the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) to preheat.
- Pour one cup of milk into a bowl, and add the 2 slices of bread, leaving them to soak until needed.
- Add the raisins to a bowl with hot water and leave to plump up.
- Set the stove to medium high, and place a large skillet on the plate.
- Place a tablespoon of coconut or sunflower oil in the skillet and swirl to coat the pan.
- Toss in the chopped onion and crushed garlic together with the curry powder and stir as it sautés – about 2 minutes.
- Add in the ground beef, stirring to break up the clumps of meat and prevent it sticking and burning. This should take around 5 minutes.
- Add in the allspice, cloves, curry powder, dried herbs, salt and pepper and stir as it cooks for around 1 minutes, to release the fragrance of the spices.
- Add in the chutney, the grated apple, the raisins and stir as they cook for around 2 minutes.
- Lastly, break up the soaked bread and add to the mix, stirring carefully an making sure that there are no giant clumps of bread that have not been incorporated into the dough.
- Remove pot from stove and prepare to transfer the ingredient to a large oiled overproof casserole dish.
- Once transferred and leveled, break the three eggs into a bowl, and add the remaining 2 cups of milk, giving it a quick whisk with a fork to break up the egg yolks and combine the two ingredients.
- Carefully pour the egg/milk mix over the top of the bobotie, add the lime leaves in the middle, and place in the over to bake for around 35 minutes. The bobotie is done when the egg is set and the mix is golden and bubbling on top.
Yellow Rice Recipe
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 ½ cups basmati rice
- 9 cups water
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 whole cloves
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- teaspoon cumin seeds
- teaspoon salt
- First rinse the rice for a couple of minutes in a sieve under running water to get rid of the extra starch.
- Add rice and water to a pot then bring to the boil with the cinnamon stick, cloves and salt.
- Allow to boil for around 10 to 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.
- Turn out into a colander and rinse with cold water, to stop it cooking further. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves.
- Place a large skillet on a stove over medium high heat and add the coconut oil.
- Add the mustard and cumin seeds – the seeds will start jumping and popping as they heat up.
- Tip in the rice carefully and stir through to heat.
- Add the ¼ teaspoon turmeric, and stir through the rice.
- Serve with the bobotie.
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As a child I wanted to grow up and marry a farmer… simply because it was so different from my life right on the shores of the ocean. Well, I didn’t marry a farmer but a surfer instead. The urge, however, to grow stuff and make great food for a big family never left. We are on acreage with a sea view and easy access to fresh caught crayfish and other seafood – the best of both worlds. As an artist and writer I enjoy creating new recipes, tweaking traditional ones, and sharing the results not only with family and friends, but online. Mee the rest of the team at this page.