Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Taste of South Africa: Bobotie

If you were ever in a recipe rut, this is the dish for you!  Bobotie is a savory and sweet, traditional South African dish made of curry-spiced ground meat (or "mince" as they call it) covered with an egg-based topping served with rice and mango chutney.  Don't be intimidated, it's incredibly easy.  The flavors and texture are complex and addictive.  To be honest, I was not a fan of curry flavors and still am picky when it comes to ground meat dishes, but I fell in love both when used in this dish!

We were introduced to Bobotie in Switzerland, of all places.  Five years ago, we traveled to gorgeous Switzerland (and lovely, romantic, was a fantastic trip for this European History major...) for a seminary class for my husband (you think I would've let him go alone? No way!).  Our host family was from South Africa and they showed us an incredible example of hospitality.  They welcomed us into their home and family for the week, left chocolates on our pillows, taught us about rugby, shared incredible stories of daring escapes from wild animals, introduced us to Settlers of Catan, opened my eyes to the gloriousness that is Rooibos tea, shared with us some divine-tasting Amarula Cream liquor over ice cream and gave us our first taste of Bobotie.  Clearly, they made an impression.  I carried the recipe home with me in my suitcase and have replicated it many times since.  As a nod of thanks to a family that taught me so much about caring for others, I wanted to pass on this recipe and hopefully, create some more Bobotie-lovers in this world!  

2 slices white bread
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 pounds ground meat (ground beef and or lamb is traditional, I used 1/2 ground been and 1/2 turkey breast)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons jarred mango chutney (or apricot jam plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)
juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
two eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
4 bay leaves (or lemon leaves, if you have access to such things, which in that case you can omit the lemon zest!)
jarred mango chutney (or apricot jam) for serving
toasted sliced or slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
hot cooked rice for serving

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a small bowl, pour milk over slices of bread and allow to soak until needed.   
Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute, stirring frequently until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute just until fragrant (about one minute).  Add in ground meat and brown, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat so it is crumbled.  When meat is fully browned, drain any grease (if necessary) and stir in curry powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.  Squeeze milk out of bread, reserving milk and crumble bread into meat, stirring to combine.  When fully mixed, stir in chutney (or jam), lemon juice and raisins and almonds (if using).  Spread ground meat mixture into a lightly greased baking dish. 
Beat eggs and add to milk.  Stir in lemon rind and mix thoroughly.  Pour custard mixture over top of meat mixture.  Stick bay leaves into top.  Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or until custard is set.  Serve over hot cooked rice and garnish with almonds and extra chutney to taste.


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