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South African Bobotie

A Colonised Cuisine 

With fond travelling memories of this beautiful country, South Africa’s food only reflects its vibrant, diverse and hospitable population. 

Known as the ‘Rainbow’ cuisine for its diversity, colonial influences and fusion of world wide flavours, the South African cuisine offers a harmonic blend of ingredients that reflect its country’s rich and complex history.

Although not recognised as a leading world cuisine, South African has come a long way in recent years, making significant headway on culinary scenes particularly in the UK.

The South African cuisine is often divided into two distinct influences with the indigenous cooking practices established predominantly in the East of the country in Sotho and Nguni speaking regions.  The second major culinary influence is a hybrid of cuisines brought to South Africa through the waves of colonisation, predominantly from Europe (Dutch, German, French and British) and introduction of Southeast Asian workers during the slave trade (Malaysia and Indonesia).

Thought to have originated from the Indonesian dish bobotok, South Africa’s most well loved and longest standing dish is the bobotie.  A delicious blend of curried meat and fruit, topped with a creamy egg custard, is said to have been developed after prolonged trade between Asia and Dutch immigrants living on the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th Century.

Traditionally made from a combination of mutton and pork mince, bootie is today more commonly found using beef or lamb.  Flavoursome and rich, this dish is not dissimilar to the Greek’s moussaka, with its spiced-packed mince and egg custard topping.  The incorporation of fruit and chutney to this dish draws on its Malay roots, offering depth of flavour and much needed freshness to the dish.

Dried fruit such as raisins and apricot add authenticity to this dish, as well as mango chutney and even fresh fruit such as sliced banana and pineapple being a popular choice.  However, with such cultural diversity and continual movement of populations, this dish has seen many variations.

So, here is my twist on the South African bobotie.  Traditionally, the mince includes soaked bread to bulk and add moisture, however, with good quality, locally sourced Somerset minced beef, I have decided to take this element out of my recipe.  To switch things up even more, I have opted to make a mango and pineapple chutney to be the fruit element of my dish.

Rich curried mince, refreshing and vibrant fruit chutney and a golden brown egg custard – this really is a dish at the forefront of age-old fusion cooking, that only highlights the positive influences of cultural diversity.

South African Bobotie
  1. Dash of rapeseed oil
  2. 1 large red onion
  3. 1 large garlic clove
  4. 1 red chilli (medium heat)
  5. 750g minced beef or lamb
  6. 2 tsp garam masala
  7. 2 tbsp curry paste
  8. Handful of coriander
  9. 5 bay leaves
  10. 200ml water
  11. 5 bay leaves
  12. Salt and pepper
  13. 100g mango (peeled and diced)
  14. 100g pineapple (peeled and diced)
  15. 100ml cider vinegar
  16. 75g caster sugar
  17. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  18. 1 tsp all spice
  19. 350ml milk
  20. 1 tsp nutmeg
  21. 3 eggs
  22. 30g flaked almonds
  1. Heat a little oil in a large pan and add the diced onion. Allow to soften for a couple of minutes before adding the diced garlic and half the chilli. Fry on a medium heat for 2 minute then add the meat. Break the mince into fine grains using a spatula, and cook until it has changed colour. Stir through the garam masala, curry paste, roughly chopped coriander and 2 bay leaves, then pour in the water. Simmer on a medium heat until reduced – this will take about 30 minutes – then season to taste.
  2. Whilst the mince is reducing, make the mango and pineapple chutney. Place the diced mango, pineapple and the rest of the chilli in a pan along with the cider vinegar, sugar, cumin and all spice. Simmer on a medium heat until the fruit is soft, the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has thickened – this will will approximately 15 minutes – then set aside.
  3. Once the mince is ready, stir through the chutney ensuring the fruit is equally distributed. Spoon the mince into a oven-proof dish, press down and smooth the top (this will ensure the topping does not seep into the mince). Cover and place in the fridge for 1hr.
  4. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the remaining bay leaves and nutmeg. Heat the milk gently for a couple of minutes to allow the bay leaves to infuse before pouring into a jug to cool. Once the milk has cooled, add the eggs and a little seasoning and whisk briefly with a fork. Remove the ‘set’ mince from the fridge and carefully pour on the milk mixture.
  5. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200°C / gas 5 for 35 – 40 minutes. Half way through cooking, scatter the top of the bobotie with the flaked almonds, before returning to the oven to finish cooking. Once browned, remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Traditionally served with rice and Sambal.
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