Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa and is a melange of the various food cultures of that country. Typically you would use minced meat, lamb or beef. You can also use minced pork. For a vegetarian alternative, minced Qourn works well. You can get a fuller history of the dish from Wikipedia.
The following recipe is a version I make very successfully at home in London. I use either minced lamp or minced pork and seasonal ingredients. Autumn, as the cold and unsettled weather begins to bite, suits this dish well. I use fresh ingredients over powders or pastes – a personal preference as the flavours are stronger and more rounded in my view. But if you don’t have time then feel free to use ready ground ingredients or pastes – just avoid generic ‘curry’ powder or pastes, they are inferior and bear little approximation to the flavours they claim to mimic. The guide below makes a substantial dish for 2 people, or a lighter meal for 3 people. I serve it with roast potatoes. You can just as easily have it with rice. The choice is yours. I top the dish off with a beaten egg, a little grated cheese and a tablespoon of yoghurt all mixed together and added 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
- Minced meat/Qourn – 500g
- Fresh garlic – 5 cloves finely chopped or crushed
- Shallot – 1 finely chopped (I prefer shallots, less wet than the onions and a sweeter flavour)
- Fresh ginger – a 1 inch piece, finely chopped
- Cumin, coriander and fennel seeds – a tablespoon of each lightly toasted (not burnt!) and then ground in a mortar and pestle, freshly ground spices have oils that add so much to dishes
- Red or green chilli – chopped finely (de-seed if you want less fire)
- A red/ornage/green capisum pepper finely chopped
- A slug of vegetable oil (olive oil flattens vibrant flavours – it’s fine for richer herbal cokking in Mediterranan dishes, not so good for Asian food)
- Cinammon bark – a good 2 inch piece to be added to the above
- A good sized marrow cut into deep rounds of around 3 – 4 inches in depth (7.5 to 10 cm) and de-seeded (scoop out the centre and save the seeds if you’re going to replant)
Turn your oven on and get it gas mark 9 (240 C or 475 F) as you’ll need a good high heat to roast the potatoes and cook off the marrow stuffed with Bobotie
- Heat the oil for 30 seconds on a high heat, turn the heat down slightly and add the cinammon, chopped shallot and capsicum pepper, cover and cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally till the pepper is soft and the shallot slightly golden
- Add the minced meat/Quorn, the chopped garlic, ginger, chilli and whole spices you toasted and ground earlier and cover (stirring occassionally) till cooked off to ensure the flavours assimilate – if needed you can add a couple of tabelspoons of water half way through cooking to deglaze the pan and ensure the mince is coated with the flavours
- Turn down the heat, add a tablespoon of water and lots of twists of freshly ground black pepper and cover and simmer for 5 minutes
Stuffing and Topping
- Blanche your marrow for 5 mins in salted boiling water
- Lift the marrows out onto a lightly greased oven pan – stuff generously with the Bobotie mixture (you may have some left over which you can serve with the final ensemble)
- Slam the lot into an oven on a very hgh heat at gas mark 9 (240 C or 475 F) for 25 minutes – this will ensure the marrow cooks in a dry atmosphere (creating a less runny dish) and allows the flavours to assimilate further
- After 25 minutes of cooking your Bobotie stuffed marrow, top off the dish with a mixture of beaten egg with a tablespoon of yoghurt and a small amount of grated cheese (parmesan or cheddar work)
- Return the topped off marrow to the oven for 15 minutes
- Finally, switch on your grill and brown the topping slightly under a high heat for 2 – 3 minutes
As I mentioned at the top, I serve these with roast potatoes (obviously if you have the oven on you can prep these ahead and cook them in the same oven as the Bobotie stuffed marrow). I usually add two or three garlic cloves to the potatoes halfway through their roasting as it adds a lovely buttery garlic flavour to them.
Serve up your Bobotie stuffed marrows with roast potatoes and add any remaining Bobotie mixture. Though the Bobotie may be fiery, the relative buttery sweetness of a good marrow is a perfect foil, with the roast potatoes acting as a further blandishment.
Good luck – try it and let me know if it works for you.