Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Authentic South African Bobotie Recipe

Hi friends! It's all about the recipe in this post, and twisting your tastebuds with some unusual but simply delicious flavour combinatons. Think banana with beef mince and grated Bramley apple, copious amounts of spices and eggy milk. Am I not really selling it to you? Let me tell you about this really incredible dish. It's a very traditional South African speciality and is filling, nourishing and so full of flavour. I will never forget the first time I tasted it, made by my lovely MIL. I was a little astonished at the inclusion of bananas but goodness me, in my opinion it is absolutely necessary! (Banana is not necesarily included in the traditional recipes, but is a popular addition among many people.) It contains a plethora of spices, plus the obligatory Mrs Balls Blatjang (or chutney, for the uninitiated) which is a staple of every South African larder. It is stuffed full of delicious, chutnified (Ha! How good a word is that?!) ingredients and is rather sweet but with a subtle kick. You can easily come by it in larger supermarkets. This recipe is an adaptation of a family recipe which is actually published in a cookbook by my husband's uncle, Dirk Nagtegaal, who is rather a well known chef in SA. Unfortunately, the recipe is in Afrikaans, and the only translation I have of it is on a scruffy piece of reporter's notebook paper kept inside the cookbook on the recipe page, written out by my dear Husb. So in fact, writing it out here in English is doing myself a favour as well. I have included a couple of adjustments and added banana like my MIL, which is not included in Dirk's recipe, but if you really can't get past the banana hurdle, feel free to omit it, although you will be missing out!

Ingredients (for two adults and two small children)

1/2 cup raisins
1 onion, finely chopped
500g beef mince
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup Mrs Balls original chutney
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated Bramley apple (or eating apple if you can't get Bramley)
1 slice of bread, soaked in milk
3 bay leaves
1 banana
2 tsp sea salt
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Boiled water

Top layer
250ml milk
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

170g basmati rice, to serve


Soak the raisins in boiled water to cover plus a bit extra. Put the bread on a shallow dish and pour over enough milk to soak into the whole slice but not to leave lots of excess in the dish. Pre-heat the oven to fan 180C.

Prepare a deep frying pan or casserole on the hob: add olive oil and turn up to a medium high heat. You can cook the whole thing in a stove top casserole dish, just putting that into the oven, but I've found it sticks quite badly to the sides of the dish when serving, so I prefer to put the mixture into a buttered oven dish before baking, as Dirk's recipe suggests. Chop the onion and add to the pan.

Cook the onion on its own for a couple of minutes, then add the mince, breaking it up into the onion so it can brown nicely all over.

 You may like to grate the apple while you're waiting for the mince to brown.

Once the mince is browned, add all the other ingredients including the raisins with the water drained away, but excluding the bay leaves and banana. Add the milk soaked bread last.

(Apologies for the apalling quality of this photo - clearly my lens needed a clean)

Break the bread up nicely into the mixture, ensuring there aren't any large chunks left. Add a good grinding of black pepper and a teaspoon of salt. Put the lid on and allow to simmer gently while you prepare the dish and remaining ingredients.

Butter a medium sized oven dish, peel and chop a banana.

Pour the 250ml of milk into a large jug, add the eggs and a generous amount of seasoning and stir well until the eggs are combined into the milk.

Next, transfer the mince mixture into the oven dish.

Once transferred, poke the bay leaves into the mince, and do the same with the slices of banana. It doesn't matter if they're slightly poking out as they will be covered with the milk mixture.

Pour the milk and egg mixture over the mince, then use a fork to gently poke through to the mince in several  places over the surface, allowing the milk to soak down into it. 

Put in the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes. When the bobotie has about 18 minutes left, put the rice on to boil, it should then coincide with the bobotie being ready.

Remove the bobotie from the oven. You may wish to allow it to stand for a few minutes, but to be honest, I just served mine up (after taking the obligatory photos, of course!)

I served the Tonjus' in some South African bowls we were given as a gift...

...but I'm afraid ours were on the usual John Lewis Polly's Pantry dinner plates, since we don't possess any South African dinner plates!

Ahhh, the most incongruous table setting possible: a traditional South African dish served on very British plates on a pink, spotty tablecloth!

If you've ever eaten bobotie and then searched online for a recipe so you can recreate it yourself, and been disappointed by the recipe you made, then this is the one for you. It is so full of flavour, rich and beautifully textured. It is by far the best bobotie recipe I've ever used, and I've tried a few. And the boys cannot get enough of it; they both shovel it down, with a large dollop of Mrs Balls on their plates (and ours!) And if you're just looking for something completely and utterly different, yet easy to make, give it a try. It may look like there are a lot of spices required, but I actually have every one of them on my spice shelf; none of them is hard to come by.

I would love to hear how your making of this delicious bobotie goes, or even just your comments on the dish and what you think of the combination of ingredients. We certainly all love it in this house!

Lekker eet!



  1. Yum! Sounds awesome, reminds me a little of moussaka - gonna try it, thanks Sam! x

    1. It may sound like moussaka, but it actually tastes very different (a lot better in my opinion!) It's quite sweet in comparison, and spicy whereas moussaka is more herby. I know you'll enjoy it though xxx


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