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How to make a Bobotie for dinner

Updated on July 16, 2011
The old Malay Quarter in Cape Town.
The old Malay Quarter in Cape Town.

A brief history of this scrumptious dish

 In the mid seventeenth century, the Dutch arrived on their ships to colonise the Cape, in what is now known as South Africa.  For those who don't know where the Cape or South Africa is, find a map of Africa, move your finger down to the very bottom of Africa and the Cape is the very bottom, the tip, where the two oceans meet - Indian and Atlantic.  The Cape used to be known as the Cape of Storms, as the oceans can sometimes get a bit rough where they come together, and the wind can be, um, a little strong.  Okay,um gale-force.  many ships have been wrecked here.  The Portuguese, who were first off the mark with this colonising thing, decided to stop stopping at the Cape because one of their sea captains was killed their by some Khoi herders on the beach, when he was trying to negotiate a good price for some goats.  They built a little refreshment station further up the coast at Mossel Bay.  The Dutch however, changed the name from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope, which shows the power of positive thinking.

With them, they brought a recipe for a kind of a minced meat casserole that was believed to have originally been swiped from the Italians.  The dish is not really a casserole, but as it is cooked in a casserole dish, guess we can call it a pseudo-casserole.  The Dutch built a big refreshment station at the Cape, got very familiar with the local Khoi women as the Dutch have big libidos and sailed on to Indonesia.  Some Indonesians, or Malays as they were called then, were not too happy with the Dutch colonists and might have voiced their opinions.  They were captured as political prisoners and shipped to the Cape to be used as house-help and gardeners (read slaves).  They brought with them aromatic spices and curry powders that tickle the nares growing in the nasal cavities. 

The Cape Malays, as they were then called and are still called that today 350 years later, had to do a lot of the cooking as it was obviously a part of their unpaid job description.  They liked the idea of the meat casserole cooked by the Dutch women, but decided that it needed livening up a bit, and bobotie was born.  Bobotie is now classed as the top traditional dish in South African Cuisine.  If you ever hear the word Bobotie, think South Africa.  If I say South Africa, think BOBOTIE.  Bobotie can probably be made with any kind of minced meat, although some prefer beef and others prefer mutton.  I once had the pleasure of eating ostrich bobotie and almost wriggled on my chair in delight as it was so orgasmic.

The Recipe

All the ingredients listed below are easy to come by and found in most kitchens. The thing with bobotie, is that you can use the basic idea and add in some of your own curry and spice combinations to create your own unique flavour. The basic bobotie recipe is this:

What you need to put in ie. the ingredients

  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 1/4 pounds good quality lean ground beef
  • 1 thickish slice of white bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder the strength of which is too your taste, mild or hot, no worries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • freshly grated pepper (about a half teaspoon)
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins
  • 2 tablespoons strong chutney or apricot jam (fruit chutney is another famous Cape Malay thingie)
  • 2 bay leaves (or fresh lemon leaves if available just for decoration to tart it up a bit)
  • 2 medium eggs

What you do with all the stuff you've now spread out on your kitchen counter ie. the method

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180C.

Chop up the onions and add to your ground beef/mince which should be in a mixing bowl.

Soak bread in half the milk, squeeze out excess milk and mash with a fork - DON'T TOSS SQUEEZED OUT MILK! Pour it straight back into remaining milk. Set milk aside, and add mushy milk bread to the meat mixture.

Add curry, sugar, salt, pepper, turmeric, vinegar, raisins, chutney (apricot or peach jam) to the beef mixture. Spoon the mixture into a greased baking dish, and place bay leaves on top. (Tip: I usually add in some garlic and ginger as well but it is not necessary)

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes in preheated 350°F oven.

Beat egg with remaining milk and pour over your half-baked bobotie and bake for another 25-30 minutes

Serve with steamed yellow rice and extra chutney. To make the rice yellow, add a little turmeric when it is steaming. You can also add some raisins into the rice as well.  Wash down with copious amounts or South african red wine.

Serves: 6


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    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Oliversmum, hope it turned out well.

      Collins let me know how yours turns out.

    • profile image

      Collins 7 years ago

      I will prepare this at my convinience and taste it to know the sweetness.

    • oliversmum profile image

      oliversmum 8 years ago from australia

      Cindyvine.Hi.What great information on this delicious looking meal , I am sure going to make it, cooking rice i'm not very good at,but will try it again, Thank you.:) :)

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      Very seldom wear an apron, only if I'm cooking and don't want to mess stuff on my shirt

    • blondepoet profile image

      blondepoet 8 years ago from australia

      Do you wear a apron in the kitchen Cindy? Maybe you are like the Naked Chef on tv perhaps. I am trying to conjure up a mental picture of u cooking....throwing it all in the oven...rushing back to the PC...typing some more of your hubs...getting up..testing food...running back..write a few more lines ROFL

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      Pleasure Gypsy!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Wow love the idea of an orgasmic dish, thanks for the recipe!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      lol T, I love that, Shepherd's Pie on acid!

      Yeah hawke, it's my kids' favourite and the only time they'll eat raisins!

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      haha I was thinking that T, gonna certainly try it, like the egg on the top bit.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Sounds great -- like Shepherds Pie on acid.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      Diana, I am now starting to think seriously about it.

      Shalini, please report back how delish it was after you made it.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Sounds absolutely di-vine Cindy - it's going to be on the dinner menu this week for sure!

    • dianacharles profile image

      dianacharles 8 years ago from India

      Reading all your hubs on food...I definitely think a cookbook would be such a great idea.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      MM, was definitely not kidding about the ostrich bobotie. It was sensational!

      Now you've given me an idea.....a cookbook? Gastronomic Travels with Cindy lol

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Cindy, your next book should be a cookbook! Not only does bo-boor-tee sound deelish, your description of the history of the region is deeliteful! Now I will never, ever think of South Africa without thinking of you! BTW, I hope Sarah Palin finds this hub, as your geography lesson about Africa would be very helpful for her (no, Sarah, Africa is not a country, it's a continent).

      P.S. Were you kidding about the orgasmic ostrich bobotie?

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      lol Blonde, you'll always be welcome!

    • blondepoet profile image

      blondepoet 8 years ago from australia

      Cindy you are a great chef, damn I def am going to have to come over for a stay with u, laughter, grog, talking, food, oh I amy never want to go

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      R. Burrow, pronounced bo-boor-tee. The middle part sounds like when you say a man is a boor, rhymes with poor. That sound.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      Candie, this si delicious, you have to try it! Am on the computer now without skype, debating what to do about my tooth.

    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 8 years ago from Florida, United States


      Is it pronounced bob-bah-tee, or bob-bow-tee ? Just curious.


    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 8 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      I'm bookmarking this!!! Yum!! My favorite food from Liberia is Palm butter and rice!! There is some amazing food out there we know nuthin' about!

      PS I'm on skype!!! Yeah!!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      Yeah Evilpants, some sausage chopped up could work just as well! It is delicious and definitely worth trying!

    • B.T. Evilpants profile image

      B.T. Evilpants 8 years ago from Hell, MI

      I'm definitely trying this! I bet it would be good with some sausage mixed in too!