Bobotie is South Africa’s delicious meat pie. It’s basically the best meatloaf ever, curried ground lamb and beef topped with savory egg custard. A little decadent. Totally delicious. Worthy of a special occasion.
I learned about this dish at a dinner party hosted by my sister-in-law Jen. She introduced me to friends of hers from South Africa – Adine and Shelley. Our conversation quickly turned to food (of course) and before long they had me drooling and asking for their emails.
We chatted about the homemade sausages they had recently made. I was impressed, never having made sausages from scratch. Then they described a meaty pie with custard on top called Bobotie. They said it’s a very popular dish that’s unique to South Africa and utterly delicious. I was sold. I promise to get the sausage recipe too, but for now I bring you Bobotie.
Bobotie is a national dish of South Africa. It resembles the Brit’s Shepherd’s Pie and the Greek’s Moussaka.
One thing that sets bobotie apart from the others is the richly flavored meat. Ground lamb and beef are mixed with shredded apples, carrots, fruit chutney or preserves and wonderful curry spices. It is an intoxicating combination and it’s topped off with rich savory custard!
HOW TO MAKE BOBOTIE:
Cut white bread into small cubes and soak in milk.
While the bread is soaking, measure all of your spices into a small bowl.
Next, sauté lots of onions and garlic until tender. Add spices and toast them a bit with the onions and garlic.
Mix everything together in a big bowl: the onions, garlic, spices, milk-soaked bread, lamb, beef, shredded carrots, shredded apples, apricot preserves, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Press the mixture into a casserole dish and bake at 350ºF for 25 minutes. Now it’s time to add the custard and return the casserole to the oven.
I had to get creative with this step. Meat plus custard is a rich combo and I was determined to lighten up the recipe. My goal was to pour off the rendered fat once the meat had cooked for a while. The problem was, the meat shrank so much after cooking, that when I poured the custard on, it pooled around the meat instead of on top.
I solved the problem by removing the bobotie from the oven one third of the way through the cooking process. At this point you can pour off the rendered fat. The meat will have shrunk away from the side of the pan, but it’s still tender enough that you can press down on the meatloaf to spread it out until it fills the pan, making nice platform for the custard.
Then tuck the bay leave in, pour the custard on top, and return the bobotie to the oven for another 50 minutes to an hour.
Cut Bobotie into squares and serve hot.
Bobotie originated in the Cape Malay community on the western cape of South Africa. In 1652 Dutch ships brought slaves from southeast Asia (modern day Indonesia) to work for the Dutch East India Company – a big trading company that was using Cape Town as the resupply station for shipping between Europe and Asia. These slaves are credited with shaping the local food culture with the interesting spices and cooking techniques they brought with them from home.
Next time you’re craving meatloaf, you might want to try bobotie instead. It’s that same kind of irresistible comfort but with lots of added excitement.
There is one thing about Bobotie that I should warn you about that was a problem for me – I couldn’t stop eating it. Lost all my resolve about moderation and portion control. But it’s a worthwhile splurge!
Here’s the recipe for Bobotie. If you make this I hope you’ll come back to leave a comment and a rating and let me know what you think.Print
Bobotie: South African Meatloaf
South Africa’s amazing meatloaf, deliciously spiced, with savory custard topping
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 mins
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 8-10 1x
- Category: Main course, comfort food
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: South African
For The Bread:
- 3 slices white bread, crusts removed, roughly chopped or pulled into small pieces
- 1 cup low fat milk
For The Dried Spices
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of cayenne pepper
For The Onions and Garlic:
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large or 2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and grated
- 1/3 cup golden raisins (optional)
- 3 tablespoons apricot preserves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 5 bay leaves
For The Custard:
- 1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch of pepper
- toasted slivered almonds
- Soak the Bread: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Put chopped bread into a small shallow bowl and pour milk on top. Press bread into milk and set aside.
- Measure out the Dried spices: Combine all the dried spices in a small bowl: curry, coriander, ginger, thyme, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne.
- Cook Onions, Garlic and Spices: Heat oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion on medium low heat for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove skillet from the heat. Add a tablespoon or two of water if the spices are sticking to the bottom of the pan. Scrape mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
- Add The Meat Mixture: Gently squeeze most of the milk from the bread and to the bowl with the onions. (leftover milk won’t be used for this recipe) Add lamb, beef, carrots, apples, raisins (optional), apricot preserves, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix everything together (best to use your hands) until just combined. Press mixture evenly into a casserole dish (2-3qt) and bake for 25 minutes.
- Assemble Custard Ingredients: A few minutes before your oven timer goes off, get all the custard ingredients into a bowl: buttermilk, eggs, salt and pepper.
- Remove casserole from oven, leaving oven on. Carefully pour off fat that has rendered. Meat will have shrunken and pulled away form the sides of the casserole. Using the back of a spatula, press the meat down so it expands to touch the sides of the casserole. Insert bay leaves evenly across surface (slit meat with a knife if necessary), tucking them halfway in so they flavor the meat but are still visible for easy removal before serving.
- Add The Custard: Beat the custard ingredients until smooth. Pour custard mixture over the meat. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the custard is set and starting to brown.
- Serve with rice or sweet potatoes. Top with toasted almonds, if you like. Enjoy!