Ah Bobotie, the national dish of my native land, South Africa. How the whole world is not cooking this aromatic, easy-to-make, sweet and spicy curried mince bake is beyond me. Just ask Oprah, it's so good she even served it for her Thanksgiving dinner along with some other Saffa culinary treats like Peri-peri Chicken, Samp and Beans, the infamous ‘Bunny Chow’ (no real bunnies harmed, don’t worry) and of course, delectable Malva Pudding for dessert. Bobotie is traditionally served with yellow rice.
In South Africa, most families have their own version of this recipe that’s been passed down through the generations, each one tweaking it to adopt more modern tastes and dietary preferences, but as far as I know, for most the fundamentals that make a Bobotie always remain.
What is the origin of Bobotie?
Ooh, now this is a controversial topic. Some claim that it comes from Indonesia, Malaysia, or that the Dutch settlers imported it from the Netherlands in the 17th century. Truth be told, wherever it came from, it’s clear that the supposed original recipes are far from how we know Bobotie today. Adaptations started in the colourful Cape Malay communities and these were further modified as it spread throughout the country. South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation and this comes across in our culinary traditions – we concoct fusions from all the different cultures’ fares, borrowing the best bits from various recipes to create something new, vibrant and popular with all.
I cannot stress this enough – you simply cannot serve this dish without its BFF ‘Yellow Rice’. It’s like bacon and eggs, burger and chips and ham and cheese. I would go as far as to say that if you are planning on making this recipe without ‘Yellow Rice’, please don’t bother.
This sunset-yellow rice dish is the perfect and most traditional accompaniment, packed with flavour, fragrance and colour.
Other than that, Bobotie is served with all sorts of toppings, for instance:
• Sliced banana
• Chutney (traditionally served with the South African national institution, Mrs Balls’ Peach Chutney, but I use mango chutney instead as I don't want to pay a premium for imported Mrs Balls in the UK. Other fruit chutneys will work too)
• Flaked almonds
Do NOT forget the ‘Yellow Rice’ though!
Nope, this is an easy recipe and you don’t need any special knowledge or skills to pull off a good Bobotie.
No, beef mince is one of the cheaper meats to buy and this makes up the bulk of the recipe. You can use lamb mince, which is more expensive, but I have found that most people find the taste a little overbearing, so I would recommend just sticking to good old beef mince.
Yes, it freezes well and it is also suitable for reheating.
No, this version is mild and should be suitable for children or anyone that would usually turn their noses up at anything too ‘hot’. Feel free to add a touch more curry if you like a bit of 'pow!'
Anything else to know?
Yes, this should be baked between 50 minutes to 1 hour in a moderate oven. However, it’s imperative to keep an eye on it and ensure you get a nice, browned edge along the outside of the dish. This really is the best bit. Families have been known to squabble over the side scoops!
Easy South African Bobotie
Equipment you may need
- Large pan
- Oven dish, circa 30cm x 20cm
For the curried mince
- 3 slices bread, crusts removed - This is based on 3 slices of shop-cut bread. If you are cutting the bread yourself, 1 x slice of about 3cm thickness will do. You can use white or brown bread
- 350 millilitre milk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2 sliced onions
- 2 garlic cloves - or 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
- 2 tablespoons fruit chutney, heaped
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam
- 1 tablespoon Worcester Sauce
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 kilogram beef mince
- 1 beef stock cube, crumbled
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 100 millilitre sultanas
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
For the savoury custard topping
- 2 eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch turmeric
- 6 bay leaves
Prepare the bread
- Roughly tear the crustless bread into pieces, place it in a bowl and cover with the milk. Leave this to soak while you get on with the rest of the Bobotie
Prepare the curried mince
- Switch the oven on to pre-heat at 180C/356F (160C fan/320F fan)
- Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and add the chopped onions and garlic. Gently fry over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent
- At this point, add the curry powder, chutney, apricot jam, Worcester sauce, turmeric and red wine vinegar and stir together. Gently fry whilst stirring for 1-2 minutes until everything is heated through
- Revisit the bread that's now been soaking in the milk for a few minutes. Drain the bread from the milk and mash it with a fork. Retain the milk because you will use this for your savoury egg custard topping
- Add the mince together with the mashed bread and sultanas to your spicy onion mix in the pan. Also add the salt and crumble the beef stock cube into the pan. Give it a good mix and gently fry, whilst stirring, until the mince has lost its pinkness. Remove from the heat and stir in the lightly beaten egg
- Spoon the meat mixture into a greased oven dish of about 30cm x 20cm and smooth the top
Prepare the savoury custard topping
- Break the two remaining eggs into the leftover milk together with a pinch of salt and a pinch of turmeric. Whisk well until the yolks are broken up and well mixed in. Gently pour the mixture over the top of the meat and place the bay leaves on top. Try to space them out equally in a pattern of your choice
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The cooking time is a good guide, but ensure you have a bit of a crispy edge on the sides, as that's the best bit of a well-baked Bobotie! An extra few minutes to crisp up the sides is not a problem.
- Serve with the legendary 'Yellow Rice' that always, ALWAYS accompanies Bobotie
- Several various toppings can be enjoyed with Bobotie, like chutney, sliced banana, coconut, and flaked almonds