2020, the year that will always be remembered for the world-wide pandemic, was also the year my husband and I would finally visit South Africa, and some neighboring countries. This was a highly anticipated trip of ours, not only for wildlife, wine, and culture, but for me, it was so much about the food of South Africa.
Being a geeky kid, I remember reading my mother’s Time-Life series of the Foods of the World. There were 27 in total, representing various cuisines – a larger book, and a smaller, spiral-bound recipe booklet.
I loved the larger books with the photos, and in African Cooking, I oohed and aahed over crayfish curry, a “popular dish at the Cape of Good Hope.”
African Cooking encompasses the continent of countries and their varied regional cuisines. A ridiculous task, really. The book is divided into five regions, and Southern Africa is one of them.
From the book, “Fertile soil and agreeable climate give South Africa much of the best grazing and crop land south of the Sahara. The Dutch first settled the region, and its culture and cuisine still bear their imprint, but a wide variety of other ethnic strains – Europeans, Asian, and African – exist in the south side by side.”
In anticipation of our 2020 South African trip, our daughter gave me this cookbook, by Melinda Roodt, published in 2016.
It is from this cookbook that I’m making the recipe for Bobotie. Another wonderful recipe is from one of my favorite professional food bloggers, stylists, and photographers, Sam from Drizzle and Dip, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. This is one of her Bobotie photos.
From her blog post: “The Indonesian influence on South African cookery entered the country with the Dutch colonists, some of whom came from Indonesia at the time. The Indonesian word “bobotok” from which bobotie is derived, appeared in a Dutch cookery book in the year 1609. Malayans brought their culinary traditions to the country and these formed the cornerstone of many dishes, which were perfected and adapted by each succeeding generation and can be regarded as indigenous. One of the most typical traditional dishes “Bobotie” still features prominently and preparing and serving it will allow you to taste and delight in the spice of South African life.”
This has to be the yellowest meal I’ve ever made!
1 thick slice white bread
8 ounces milk
1 ounce olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Robertsons Rajah Mild & Spicy Curry Powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 – 2 1/2 pounds beef mince
1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons apricot jam
3 ounces Mrs. Balls chutney
3 extra-large eggs
3 – 4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cake flour
2 teaspoons beef stock powder
16 ounces water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the bread in a bowl with the milk to soak.
Heat half the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the remaining olive oil, the curry powder, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of the turmeric to the onion and sauté for another 30 seconds.
Add the mince and fry over high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring continuously, until cooked and loose in texture.
Turn down the heat and stir in the diced apple, salt, pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, jam, and chutney.
Drain the bread (keep the milk) and tear it into the mince. Mix well.
Beat 1 egg, quickly stir this into the mince mixture and remove the pan from the heat.Spoon the mince into a 8 x 12” ovenproof dish, reserving 2 tablespoons in the pan, and even out the top.
Beat the remaining eggs with the reserved milk and the remaining turmeric in a small bowl and pour over the mince in the dish.
Press the bay leaves halfway into the top and bake for 30 minutes until set.
While the bobotie is cooking, add the flour and stock powder to the reserved mince mixture in the pan. Bring to a high heat while adding the water and stir until thickened. Add the Worcestershire sauce and season to taste.
Serve the bobotie with this reduction and turmeric rice.
And then start planning when you’ll make it next, cause you will want to!
You did so well! It is such a great South African dish. We usually follow it with another very much South African desert called Malva Pudding. I have in my adulthood turned vegetarian and now make my bobotie with lentils which is equally good. The yellow rice is sometimes also made with black raisins and we call it “funeral rice” or in Afrikaans “begrafnisrys”. Hope you can reach our shores soon and you will love our many delicious foods. Greetings from Cape Town. Elmarie
Thank you Elmarie! Fingers crossed for our trip that’s planned later this year. Bobotie with lentils sounds very good to me! I’ve not heard of black raisins – interesting!
This sounds like a lovely comfort dish, and I bet the lentil version is just as delicious!
Or, mixing mince with lentils? I used to do that a lot, or add soy granules. I always loved lentil spaghetti… anyway, this bobotie is so good and I’d definitely classify it as a comfort dish.
The topping is really interesting and I’m sure contributes to the character of the dish!
My husband loves minced meat and I always look for new recipes to cook for him. This sounds and looks fantastic. What is that Mrs. Balls chutney? What else can I use instead?
I found Mrs. Balls chutney on Amazon. You can use any kind of chutney. The main fruit is peaches and then apricots, but, the fruit doesn’t really matter, in my opinion, because the other ingredients stand out more.
Wow! What a combination of flavors! If I think about it I guess I’ve never had any South African dish but all those spices sounds wonderful 😋
The curry custard baked on top was really what made this superb! Great flavors.
Mimi, I think you guys will enjoy South Africa. I’ve had bobotie, but I’ve never made it. I guess I figured it was more involved or perhaps your great cooking lesson just makes it look easier. I love the seafood in South Africa, especially the langostinos they’re huge and taste like a lobster to me. Take care and I hope your planned trip comes to be…
I know we will, if we ever get there! Bobotie is very simple and straightforward to make, easier than a shepherd’s pie. And such wonderful flavors. I’m super excited about the seafood in S.A. As well as the wine!
South Africa is really amazing, Mimi — I hope your trip comes through. I made bobotie years and years ago from a recipe given to me by a food historian. It was really good. Was served it in South Africa and there was no resemblance to the one I had made. The beautiful one you made here is much more like the one I had in South Africa. Will definitely try it!
Hmmmm I wonder why they were so different? I can’t wait to see South Africa and some surrounding countries as well. I’m not a worrier by nature, but I think about the possibility of not being able to follow through with our trip a little each day. It’s a big one – India, too. I hope all of these countries follow the strict protocols and allow tourism.
Wonderful flavors in this homey bake! :)
Definitely! It was fun getting all of the South African ingredients for this – even the Mrs. Ball’s chutney!
I always thought those time-life books were so much fun. I never had the Foods of the world series however. My neighbor is from South Africa … I’m going to pester her to make me some of this. :)
I still use them! The Foods of the World are my favorite out of all the collections I own. I think they still stand on their own, even though I know that Craig Claiborne was upset in retrospect that they rushed through them. It was probably so novel back then. Definitely have your friend make this. It’s so good!
What a wonderful mix of sweet and savory flavors and spices in this dish! It sounds amazing. And, Im envious of your Mom’s Time/Life series – I’d have devoured those books!
Exactly! Mostly savory, though, and so full of flavor. My mother gave me the whole Time-Life series when I got married, which is how I got started cooking! It would be great if they could be redone. I mean, African cooking should have at least been broken into various regions. I guess you could say the same for Italy, though. But Africa is a continent! Anyway, I still refer to them and they’re really special to me.
Oh, this looks so delicious! Now I have to get that cookbook!
It’s a great cookbook. Makes you wish you lived in South Africa!
I know pitifully little about South Africa, so I’m thrilled to learn a bit more about it through the food, for starters. What a brilliant dish to begin this journey with. I hope you can get out there to experience the place in person soon.
Thank you. Our fingers are crossed. I love the whole idea of the Dutch influence, in the food and that beautiful impossible to understand language. I’m not a big casserole gal, but the flavors in this are outstanding.
I am sure you will get here! We are open for tourism, and our Covid protocols are strict. In fact, I feel safer here than I would in many other countries right now. The main ingredient of the chutney would have been peaches. If you do get here I would love to invite you over for a crayfish meal :)
The problem is our other destinations, like in India, Kenya, and Zambia, may not be on top of covid before we get there. It’s not just a visit to SA. I would so love to have crayfish with you! What a dream come true! I just looked at Mrs. balls chutney and peaches are the main ingredient. I don’t know why I thought apples. It was fun getting specific ingredients for the bobotie!
At first, the picture looked like an breakfast casserole, but it is so much more! The flavors that go into this take it to new levels and I cannot wait to try it! Thanks so much for introducing this South African dish to me :)
You’re so welcome. And I’m not a casserole gal, but we all fell in love with this.
I had no idea that South Africa was known for its food!
No?!! The cuisine is fascinating, a mix of African, Dutch, and French, from way back when the spices were being transported around the cape from Europe, and many decided to stay. There’s more to it than that, but that’s what sticks in my memory. Great wines as well.
I love how you cook so much international food, and then share the recipes for them.
Aww, thanks. It is ironic, because if you read any of my posts about my mother, I really hated how much she made “weird” food all of the time. Sometimes she do a different country’s cuisine on a weekly basis. I obviously stepped into her shoes without planning on it! Like my byline – “so much food, so little time!” There’s just always something to try!
Wow! What an intriguing dish Mimi! You are right, the yellow color is just stunning. I’ve never heard of bobotie, and now I am excited to try it. How amazing your trip must have been as well, that is so so cool!
It’s so good. No, our trip got canceled cause it was scheduled in 2020 ☹️ Maybe this year?!!!
I love this and made something similar before as we have several South African friend who suggested me to try them. Its so good, lightly spicy, a bit floral, sort of sweet and savoury, definitely a tasty variation of the meatloaf
So much better than meat loaf. Great flavors, and that curry custard on top is the icing!
Bobotie has a special place in my heart! It’s one of the first things my husband ever cooked for me, true to his roots! It’s unlike many Canadian “casseroles”. You did a great job!
Aww, that’s so sweet! Does he have that cool SA accent?!
I’ve heard of bobotie before, but I’ve never looked at a specific recipe – it sounds quite delicious! The bit of sweetness from the apple and the apricot jam would add such a unique underlying flavor. I’m intrigued! Plus, I’m one of those weird people that likes making different dishes and hunting down the unique ingredients.
I can relate, as you know! I mean, why not?! I actually used the diced apple even though most traditional bobotie recipes use raisins. I didn’t think my husband would eat it with the raisins, and I’d noticed that it’s considered a normal substitute. I’ve gained so much weight blogging because I’m left with pots and baking dishes full of beautiful food that my husband won’t touch! In fact, after I made the bobotie and took photos, we had our neighbors over. Fortunately they loved it and it got devoured. So no leftovers for me to force myself to eat!
We haven’t been to South Africa. Supposed to be an amazing place! And I’ve never had bobotie. Love the color. That IS yellow! :-)
It’s all yellow! But I guess that’s what they really serve!
South Africa has long-time been on my bucket list, Mimi. I’m so glad that you were able to visit and enjoy the culture, land, and cuisine. I appreciate how you educate me (and all of us) through your travel experience posts. I think that my mother had the same books that you are speaking of. Oh, and I love yellow food recipes. Actually, most of my recipes are yellow or red.
Well, we weren’t able to visit because of the pandemic! But it’s still on our bucket list, and hopefully we can still go this year. Fingers crossed! Yellow food is pretty, but I usually like a little variety on a plate!!!
It may sound funny but we tasted this beauty while visiting Sweden and since then it became one of our staples. So beautiful, just like the continent ! :-) Hope you’ll get there this year ! :-)
In Sweden?! Fantastic. It is such a great meal.
I am not familiar with African cuisine and I should put my hands on trying some. This sounds really delicious with all the ingredients that goes in the dish. Delish!
Not close to Korean food, but very very good!!!
Such a fascinating combination of flavors! I bet I would really love this dish. So glad you got to experience a really authentic one in South Africa. I would love to visit there someday!
No, we didn’t! We never made it in 2020 because we couldn’t travel. It’s back on for this coming fall, but fingers crossed. I can’t wait to actually taste real SA cuisine!
Such a tasty sounding South African dish! I hope you’ll be able to take the trip this year, Mimi. What an adventure that will be. In the meantime, you can keep getting more acquainted with the food via this book. Have a great weekend! :-) ~Valentina
Thank you Valentina. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Hopefully we’ll get to travel, as most travel-loving folks. What a year it’s been!
Yes! Sunshine yellow. It certainly is a happy meal. GREG
Such an interesting dish. I’d love to surprise my South African friends with this. Thanks for sharing.
Oh, it’s good. Love the flavors. It’s basically a casserole (not one of my favorite things to make 🙄) but it’s really good.
i haven’t made nor eaten bobotie for ages. my flatmate first made it many years ago (I was surprised as she wasn’t a confident or adventurous cook), but we all loved it. that whole idea of soaking bread in milk, and making a custard on top of the mince was just so – crazy. she added sultanas to hers. we are in lockdown again as of 5pm i.e. 45 mins away. oh the joy!
Well, it’s really a basic mince casserole, but with that curry custard on top, so you definitely don’t have to be adventurous or skilled to make this. It’s just really so darned good. My recipe called for sultanas but I substituted apples so my husband would eat it! You’re in lockdown again??? Oh my goodness.
We can’t wait to visit South Africa ourselves one day Mimi. Thanks for the inspiration with this Bobotie recipe. It looks delicious. Did you manage to get to any South African wineries?
We never went at all because our trip got cancelled due to covid. But yes we certainly had some winery visits planned!
So sorry to hear that your trip was cancelled! I was looking forward to taking that trip vicariously through you! This dish looks incredible! Makes my mouth water! Hope to try it soon!
Thanks. I’m chomping at the bit to travel again, like many people!
I was supposed to go in October but it was cancelled 😢
Us, too! Now are fingers are crossed for this November.
What an interesting dish, with an interesting backstory. I’ve bookmarked this to try out soon.
You will love it. Such great flavors.
We have spent a lot of time in South Africa, especially Manservant. Can’t say enough good things about it, but I know they have been going through a tough time. In any case, there food is awesome, especially the seafood!
Oh, I can’t wait. I try to order more South African wines for myself, but I doubt that’s helping much… Terrible times, for sure. Fingers crossed that we get there!
Mrs. Balls Chutney makes this recipe extra delicious. Love your version. Perfect comfort food for cool days.
Chef Mimi: Excited to try this recipe with the substitution of lentils. Google says 1 cup of dried, uncooked lentils [which equals 2 1/2 c cooked] = 1 lb of ground beef. That would be over 6 cups of cooked lentils which seems out of proportion for this recipe. What do you think? What would be your suggestion be for substitution of beluga lentils? Thank you for your help. Linda
Interesting. It’s been a while since I made this, but certainly the beef is the main ingredient and I’m estimating about 6-7 cups of cooked lentils to equal the volume of beef. It’s a lot, but this is a beef dish, about 2” thick in the baking dish. And honestly I’m not sure it will work that well as lentils. My husband was a vegetarian for years and I have had a lot of lentil experience! The seasoning will be good, but the end result really wouldn’t be much more than seasoned lentils in a baking dish topped with eggs. I looked up a conversion for 1 pound of ground beef and it’s equal to 3 dry cups, so that works with my estimation. Good luck with this! The flavors are great!
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I appreciate your input and will process my next step, as I am now on the fence. If I used 1/2 beef and 1/2 lentils, would that be bring it closer to the original recipe? Love your blog. Thank you.
Thanks so much! Well, the dish is like a seasoned meat loaf stuffed in a baking dish, covered in eggs and baked. So in this case lentils really can’t take the place of the mince because they won’t cook the same way. Certainly a half and half mixture will work better, because you’ll have the juices, more flavor, and not just loose lentils. Have you ever cooked with soy granules? They work really well with meat because they look like meat. There have fiber, which meat doesn’t of course. I used to use it a lot with my kids to stretch meat mince. They’re not “loose” like lentils. I would probably make the bobotie as is and serve lentils on the side! But, I’m not a vegetarian.
Thank you again for your time and thoughtful reply. I will give the soy granules a try and will let you know how that goes.
Wow, such an interesting combination of ingredients and truly sounds delicious.
I like that it’s somewhat unique, albeit a casserole. And really good!