Bobotie

As a kid I hated mixing savory and sweet flavours. I also hated mince, despite my mom telling me it was just tiny pieces of steak. She used to make us delicious meals (she is a fantastic cook even though she won’t admit it, Frank loves it when she makes us dinner!), and no doubt either my brother Dude or I would complain about what was put in front of us.

Frank said to me when we started dating that he doesn’t like tomatoes. Not understanding this, I asked when he had last had tomatoes. He claimed that he hadn’t eaten them since he was a kid, and he wasn’t going to change now. Having only realised over the last 5 years that your taste changes as an adul,t I tried to convince Frank that he might like tomatoes if he tried them again, and even though he wanted none of it I decided to take my own advice.

Bobotie is one of the most traditional South African dishes. It is basically curried mince with raisins, topped with savoury custard. It does mix sweet and savoury flavours, but it is so delicious because of that! (I never thought I would say that, and Mom is sad that only now do I admit I like it after many years of tears at the table…)
According to Wikipedia (oh yes, again), the recipe probably originates from the Dutch East India Company colonies in Batavia, with the name derived from the Indonesian Bobotok. It is also made with curry powder leaving it with a slight “tang”. The Bobotie recipe was transported by South African settlers to colonies all over Africa. Today, recipes for it can be found that originated in settler communities in Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is a variation that was popular among the 7,000 Boer settlers who settled in the Chubut River Valley in Argentina in the early 20th century, in which the bobotie mixture is packed inside a large pumpkin, which is then baked until tender.

Mom gave me the recipe she’s used from a South African chef by the name of Lynn Bedford-Hall. It is incredibly straight-forward, and a good dish to make in advance as the curry only gets better over time. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Bobotie – recipe from “Best of Cooking in South Africa” by Lynn Bedford Hall

1 fairly thick slice crustless bread (brown or white)
375 ml milk
25 ml oil
10 ml butter
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
25 ml curry powder (or more to taste)
10 ml salt
25 ml chutney
15 ml smooth apricot jam
15 ml Worcester sauce
5 ml turmeric
25 ml brown vinegar
1 kg raw mince
100 sultanas (or raisins)
3 eggs
pinch each salt & turmeric
bay leaves

Soak bread in milk.  Heat oil and butter in large pan and fry onions and garlic.  When onions are soft, add curry powder, salt, chutney, jam, Worcester sauce, turmeric and vinegar and mix well.  Drain and mash bread and reserve milk.  Add bread to pan together with mince and sultanas.  Cook over low heat, stirring and when meat loses its pinkness, remove from stove. (At this point you can pop it in the fridge if making in advance) Add 1 beaten egg, mix well, then spoon into greased, 28 x 16 cm baking dish and level the top.

Beat remaining eggs with reserved milk (you should have 300ml) and the salt & turmeric.  Pour over meat mixture and put a few bay leaves on top.  Stand dish in a larger pan of water (this is important to prevent drying out) and bake, uncovered, at 180°C for 1 hour or until set.  Serve with rice and sambals.
Serves 8

Suggested sambals – chopped tomato and red onion;  sliced banana or sliced banana mixed into thick Greek yogurt;  chutney

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3 Responses to “Bobotie”


  1. 1 Anna Johnston 03/09/2010 at 3:06 am

    You have really interesting sounding recipes, this one has my taste buds guessing…, savoury sweet mixes are sometimes amazing. Guess I’m just going to have to make this to taste it. Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers Anna
    PS: How interesting that the history of this dish was once baked in a pumpkin.., I’m so tempted to try it that way.

  2. 2 Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella 03/09/2010 at 5:15 pm

    Oh I’ve heard so much about thsi dish from a friend! I had no idea that was what it looked like-looks perfect for cold weather! 😀

  3. 3 Ellie 05/09/2010 at 4:16 pm

    This looks delicious – isn’t it amazing how much we hate as kids we love as adults?


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