Bobotie. A culinary experiment

W

ell, here we go, for the first time, blogging about cuisine, cooking and eating (which is the only logical consequence of cooking, isn’t it?).

I’m not a great chef.
…Well, I’m not even a real chef.
Period.

Nevertheless, I enjoy cooking and most of all I like trying new food, anything that I’ve not yet eaten, other countries’ traditional dishes… you name it.

My cooking motto is “keep it simple”, which is not a philosophical statement, but it’s literally “keep it simple” as in: “Keep it simple, before you mess it up completely”
… Capisce? (say that in heavy Brooklyn-ese accent).

Bobotie is essentially a South-African dish of spicy minced meat with bread, fruit and eggs, which is likely to have come from the times of the Dutch East India Company (better known as V.O.C., or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie).

For a few more facts and history about Bobotie, you can read this Wikipedia (©) article.

I like its mix of spicy and sweet and the rather ‘sticky’ texture of the finished dish.

I like to complement it with some ‘nuts & seeds’ rice.
I usually make my own rice with nuts and seeds, but there are quite a few ready-to-cook alternatives in any local Supermarket (in the Netherlands, at least).

I use mostly pearl barley, almonds (roughly chopped), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine seeds and sometimes linseed, though some people may get abdominal cramps from the last one.

As usual, look out for allergies if you cook something for people you don’t know through and through, or your rice-with-nuts-and-seeds-dinner may end at the local hospital or worse.

INGREDIENTS (roughly 4 persons)

  • 500 gr. minced meat (preferably beef, not too fat)
  • 2 slices white tin bread (or anything with a soft crust)
  • 200 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 red onions (medium-sized. If not red, use anything you have with a sweeter taste. Avoid very strong onions)
  • 2 tbsp (tbsp = tablespoon, which is roughly 15 ml.) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (there is a vast choice in brands and types, with different levels of spiciness so it’s just a matter of personal preferences. I prefer for Bobotie a not too hot curry)
  • 1 tbsp minced dried apricots (if you can’t find those, you can safely use 1½ tbsp apricot jam, as long as it is not too sweet. For the best result use a “light” or “biologic” product without added sugars)
  • 1 tbsp softened white raisins (I prefer the white ones, but normal raisins off the supermarket shelf will do)
  • 4-6 small bay leaves for garnishing (if you are lucky, you may find fresh ones. If not, the dried ones will do the trick as well. However, keep in mind that the fresh ones may have a much stronger flavour and should be thoroughly washed if self-collected)

PREPARATION

The Bobotie preparation will take approximately 20 minutes, plus roughly 30 minutes in the oven.

Keep those times in mind while preparing the rice with nuts. This in turn will depend on what rice you use (fresh, canned, quick-cooking… you name it).

Start with soaking the 2 bread slices in the milk.

In the meantime, put the oil in a (frying) pan and start heating it.
Do not overheat!

I normally use a wok, but a normal frying pan with high edges and a rather thick bottom will do.
I absolutely prefer nonstick cooking gear, but hey, it’s your party…

Chop the onions (not too fine) and start to sauté them in the heated oil for 1-2 minutes, until they’re soft and translucent.

Add the minced meat and make sure you loose it as evenly as possible.
Leave it “sweat” for about 3 minutes and do not overheat.

Squash the milk out of the bread slices, put them in a low bowl and use a fork to reduce them to an even paste.

Keep the rest of the milk for later!

Add the “bread-paste” to the meat and onions and make sure it is evenly mixed.

Add the curry powder, the raisins and the apricots and keep stirring while cooking at medium fire for 2 more minutes.

Add salt and pepper to your discretion and tastes (think about your blood pressure and apply parsimony and good judgement).

Get the mix off the fire and let it cool off a bit.

Make sure that the meat is not too hot and then mix the 2 eggs with the remaining milk and pour ½ of this mix through the meat.

Prevent the eggs from clotting all in one place.

Spread this meat and egg mix evenly in a baking dish and pour the remaining egg and milk mix on top of it.

Prod the bay leaves into the meat mix so that you can remove them easily later on and put everything to bake in the pre-heated oven at 200°C for 25-30 minutes.

Make sure you use the oven’s mid-rack so to heat evenly from all sides.

Volià… enjoy a superb South-African dish with a Dutch heritage.

Bobotie
Bobotie

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