South Africa is not known as a country with a wealth of culinary delights like, say, Thailand. In fact, I’ve heard travelers complain about the food being bland. Even some guidebooks suggest that you certainly don’t visit SA for the food.

But I disagree, considering South Africa’s incredibly rich cultural heritage it only makes sense that there is a curious and exciting mix of food to be discovered by anyone looking for a good meal.

And to back-up that statement I bring you… Bobotie!

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Bobotie, (the tie pronounced like Bet-tie) is a delicious Cape Malay dish filled with flavors, fragrances and textures and anybody calling bobotie dull has no taste buds. This dish brings together the fruity sweetness and vinegary tart of fruit chutney, the sexiness of cinnamon, and the spiced-goodness of curry and turmeric. Biting into bobotie you go through a layer of crisp glaze, followed by egg custard before finally getting to the richly flavored meat. Mmm.

There are quite a number of bobotie recipes out there, but they all combine basically the same ingredients; meat, bread, milk, eggs, onions, curry, turmeric, and fruit chutney. My version of bobotie actually does not make use of fruit chutney, I use apricot jam instead and add just a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice for the tart flavor.

The best thing to do when making this most certainly non-bland South African dish is to experiment until you find the right balance of flavors for your tastes. This is what I usually do when I make bobotie. So I’m leaving you with more of a guideline than a recipe, the rest will be up to you.

Find:

500g ground beef

1 chopped onion

1 slice bread- white or brown

1 cup milk

2 eggs

turmeric

curry powder

bay leave

pepper

salt

sugar

chutney or apricot jam

vinegar or lemon juice

olive oil

Make:

Preheat your oven to about 180C and prepare a deep oven dish. Soak the slice of bread in the cup of milk. Heat the oil and add the curry powder and turmeric and then the onion. Add the beef and brown. When the beef is browned, mix in the chutney or jam, a little vinegar, and sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Take the slice of white bread and squeeze out all the milk, keep the milk as you will use it for the glaze and custard. Crumble the bread into the meat mixture and pour all of this into your oven dish, push a bay leave into the top. Bake for about an hour, until everything has set.

For the glazy-custardy part you mix the eggs with the milk and pour this on over the meat about thirty minutes before it’s done.

Suggestions for bobotie:

– bobotie is best served with some fragrant yellow rice, but I ‘ve used dahl and brown rice and it works just as well

– you can let your imagination run wild with adding some extras, some people add raisins, dried apricots. Almond slivers adds a lovely texture to the meat.

– make it and say to yourself “Mmm, South African know a thing or two about making a great meal!”

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