This post was scheduled to go up last Monday. Clearly my technological skills are not up to scratch! Anyway, here it is: a week late but here all the same. Bobotie. Looks revolting. Tastes fan-tiddly-astic. “Hold up a sec”, you say. What on earth is Bobotie? I’ll forgive you for asking. Unless you’re South African, or of South African descent it’s highly unlikely that you’ve come across this particular specimen. The traditional version consists of a sweet, spicy beef mince sauce, topped with an eggy layer, dotted with bay leaves. Think Sheperd’s pie on steroids. Or magic mushrooms. The ingredients list is most peculiar – chutney, jam, bread soaked in milk, lemon juice, curry powder….but it works in a most satisfying way. Have a little faith.
I rarely use TVP/veggie mince as it looks and smells far too much like cat food. The congealed layer of gravy on top is shockingly similar – if you’ve opened a can you’ll know what I mean. However, I’ve lamented about it long enough over at the Vegetarian Sheperds Pie, so we’ll cut it short here. Regardless of the slightly ‘icky’ aspects, it is a brilliant substitute for the beef mince in the Bobotie. On top of that my granny would murder me if I strayed too far from tradition (thankfully, it did meet her standards). The mince provides a slightly chewy texture – no dismal mush around here – that contrasts well with the egg layer above. Furthermore, the carrot, zucchini and mushrooms add yet another dimension of texture. Whilst traditionally served with rice, I actually prefer it without. Served with roast vegetables, it’s a hearty enough meal. We’ll leave the final call to you.
One tip of particular importance is to NOT lick the bayleaf. Just don’t. A certain someone naively thought bay leaves were just popped on top for the sake of it. A pretty (though come to think of it…) garnish. Well. Apparently they do have a purpose – flavour, and quite a strong one at that when you lick the egg off them!
And remember, Bobotie is another one of those dishes that you can’t take on face value, just trust the (admittedly peculiar) ingredients to work their magic.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
120g carrot (1 medium), cut into thin triangles
100g zucchini (2 very small), cut into thin half-moons
120g field mushrooms (about 2), cut into rough 1cm dice
415g can vegetable mince. I used Sanitarium’s Veggie Delights Casserole Mince.
2 slices wholemeal bread
½ cup milk, divided
2 tbsp chutney. Any flavour is fine.
2 tbsp apricot or peach jam
1 tsp curry powder. I used Keen’s.
2 tbsp sultanas
3 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 200C. Lightly grease a medium-sized ovenproof dish.
Place a large frying pan with the olive oil over a medium heat. Saute the onion for 2 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the carrot, zucchini, mushrooms and veggie mince and cook over a low heat, stirring very regularly for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile soak the bread in half of the milk and mash with a fork. You may need to break up the crust with your fingers (I never said this would be elegant cooking). Stir in the chutney, jam, curry powder, sultanas, lemon juice, salt and pepper to form a thick paste like mixture.
Add the bread mix to the saucepan, stir well to combine and cook, covered, over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Stir regularly as it will be inclined to stick to the base of the pan.
Transfer to the greased ovenproof dish and smooth the stop with a spatula. Whisk the remaining milk with the eggs and pour over the top. Place the bay leaves on top and cover the dish with alfoil.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the alfoil and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Source: Adapted from Granny Brampton’s Bobotie recipe.