Often considered the national dish of South Africa, bobotie is a fantastic mix of flavors, with fruit, curry and spice in a comforting meaty bake.
I’m not quite sure why, but I started having a look at some of what might be considered national dishes the other day. I think it’s partly as I have been planning our next trip, I was thinking about past ones and often remember seeing in my guide book that some dish or another is generally considered the national dish, and so we made sure, as far as we could, that we tried it.
Bobotie is what is often considered the national dish of South Africa, and it has to be said, it’s a pretty great choice. It’s certainly one I would be proud of.
What is bobotie?
Bobotie is a little like moussaka or lasagna but instead of layering the meat mixture with eggplant/aubergine or pasta, there is fruit and spice mixed in with the meat and then an egg-milk layer on the top.
While it still needs to cook in the oven a while it’s much quicker to make than layered dishes, since there’s minimal assembling, but is still full of lots of fantastic flavors. The fruit and onions mixed in with the meat keep it lovely and moist and there are so many great flavors in there that you can hardly help but find it delicious.
The topping is a little different from moussaka or lasagna in that it’s not a cheese sauce, just a simpler egg and milk mix that firms up to form a slight crust when it cooks. It also helps keep everything inside wonderfully moist, so as you can probably tell by now this is not a dry dish. Similar to a lasagna, you can make it ahead and either keep it in the fridge or freeze it. Personally I’d prefer to do up until you put the topping on as I am never as keen about keeping dairy/eggs hanging around any length of time and the topping is so quick to mix up and add when you are ready.
Fruit in with the meat?!
Having fruit in with the meat may seem a bit unusual but if you’ve ever tried a tagine, like lamb tagine with apricots, you’ll know it works. And here, you can’t particularly tell that’s what it is at first, you can just taste it’s delicious. In actual fact, fruit isn’t in all versions of bobotie – like a lot of dishes that have been around a while, there are a number of variations, but personally I think it works really well so would definitely recommend trying this version.
What do you serve with bobotie?
The traditional way of serving bobotie is with some yellow rice, then often with slices of banana and some pickle or chutney on the side. I didn’t quite have time to make the yellow rice so did plain white basmati instead. To be honest, I don’t think it makes so much difference as the bobotie itself is definitely the star, although I would agree it’s nice to have some banana and chutney on the side.
This also works well for younger eaters, mixing the bobotie through the rice as while it’s got great flavor, it’s not a hot spice and the texture is great for them. All in all, it’s a delicious dish that everyone can enjoy, and we definitely did, and will again.
- 1 tbsp butter 10g
- 2 onions medium
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 slice bread large
- 1 cup milk 240ml
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 lb ground beef 680g, or ground lamb/beef or lamb mince or a mixture of both
- 1 apple peeled, cored and grated
- 1/4 cup raisins 35g
- 1/2 lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 eggs
- Melt the butter in a large skillet/frying pan. Dice the onions and crush the garlic then add both to the pan and cook until soft, around 5mins.
- Meanwhile, cut the crusts from the bread and soak it in the milk.
- Preheat oven to 325F/160C.
- Add the curry powder, turmeric and cumin to the onions and stir well, cook for a minute then add the ground meat/mince.
- Cook the meat, stirring ever minute or two, until browned.
- Add the apple, raisins and soaked bread to the pan - do not throw away the milk.
- Stir the pan to mix everything in then remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and one egg and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and press down flat.
- Mix the remaining egg with the retained milk and pour over the meat mixture.
- Bake in the oven for around 40-50 minutes until the topping is set and lightly browned.
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