Bobotie is a delightful South African dish that is filled with beef mince, spices and aromatics with an egg topping. It is a favourite in most South African homes, and it is traditionally served with a side of yellow rice with raisins in it.
WHY IS IT A TRADITIONAL DISH?
It’s commonly believed that Bobotie was first derived from the Javanese dish Botok, as Dutch colonists brought the dish to South Africa from their settlements in Indonesia (née Dutch East Indies) in the 17th century. While Botok is made with minced meat wrapped in banana leaves, Bobotie is often seasoned with curry powder and dried fruit and baked with a egg custard topping – a reflection of both local ingredients and European colonial tastes.
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy cream or chilled coconut milk
1 pinch salt
6-7 bay leaves
toasted almond slivers or slices to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and soften until softened, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and sauté until mostly browned, about 5 minutes, breaking up the chunks with your spoon; pour off most of the excess oil (leave about 1 tbsp in the skillet).
2. Add the seasonings and dried fruit and sauté until the beef is cooked through and starting to crisp at the edges, about 2 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed; it should taste a bit salty (the rich custard will balance the flavors). Once tasty, transfer everything to a lasagna pan or other baking dish. Beat the eggs and combine them with the cream and salt. Pour the egg mixture over the meat then lay the bay leaves over the mixture.
3. Place in the oven and bake until the custard sets and starts to brown, 30-40 minutes. Broil until brown spots start to form, about 1 minute. Remove and let rest for five minutes before serving with toasted almond slivers or slices.
** Let’s face it – using coconut milk in place of heavy cream, in most cases, feels like a compromise. Not the case with this dish, where the mild coconut flavor elevates the entire dish to another level of delicacy.