Unique to South Africa, bobotie is the platypus of international cuisine. Neither a pie nor a meatloaf, both sweet and savoury, bobotie is a hybrid dish that speaks to South Africa’s many cultures and tastes. Robustly spiced, spiked with sweet raisins and topped with a soothing savory custard, bobotie is deliciously complex whilst being reassuringly rustic.
Almost always served with yellow rice and blatjangs, bobotie is typically most people’s first introduction to traditional South African food. For this reason bobotie has become synonymous with South Africa and is instantly recognisable as being an African favourite.
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Bobotie: Serves 4
- 2 thick slices of good white bread, crusts removed
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 500g beef mince
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
- 1 heaped tsp. mild curry powder
- 1 heaped tsp. masala (if unavailable, double-up the curry powder)
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 3 cloves & 5 allspice berries, both crushed
- 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 2 tbsp. South African fruit chutney
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- Soak the bread in water for 5 minutes, remove and squeeze out any excess water
- Fry the onions in the oil and butter until just transparent, set aside
- Place all the ingredients (except the bread, bay leaves, milk and eggs) into a large bowl and mix well. Make sure that the ingredients are equally spread throughout the meat.
- Tear the soaked bread into small pieces and add to the meat mixture, mix well.
- Spread the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish. Push the mixture up on the sides of the dish to accommodate the contraction of the meat as it cooks.
- Press the bay leaves onto the top of the mixture, taking care to lay them out in accordance to how you intend dividing up the bobotie later.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After that remove the foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, add the eggs to the milk along with some salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine.
- Take the bobotie out of the oven. During the cooking process, the meat will have contracted and come away from the sides of the dish. Press the meat back into the dish (I use a potato masher for this).
- Return the dish to the hot oven and then carefully pour the milk mixture over the meat.
- Continue baking until the milk topping turns golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Note: Bobotie is best eaten the next day
Serve with: Traditionally served with yellow rice (see below) and various condiments called blatjangs. Typically these would consist of sliced banana, extra chutney, pickled beetroot and a fresh tomato salsa (see below).
Yellow Rice: To your rice simply add: 1/4 tsp. turmeric, a handful of raisins, a couple of cloves, 2 slices of ginger and a nob of butter. Season and cook your rice like you would normally
Tomato Salsa: Combine 2 ripe tomatoes (seeded and finely diced), 5ml crushed dried chilli flakes, 10ml castor sugar and 30ml white vinegar. Finely dice a 1/4 of an onion and rub the onion with salt in a colander. Pour some boiling water over the onion and squeeze out any excess moisture. Add to the tomato mixture. Optional additions: Finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)