Bobotie, from the Cape


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“There are as many variations for bobotie as there are cooks. The only secret is to find you own favourite amount and mix of spices! Other than widely believed, bobotie did not come with the slaves from Indonesia, but was actually brought from Holland by founding father Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. Why then the spices, so typical of Indonesian and Sri Lankan cooking? Because through the Dutch East India Company which sailed round the Cape of Good Hope, the Netherlands had a lively spice trade with the East in those days. But we can assume that the original dish was probably much simpler and that the slaves who brought with them their distinctive and popular way of cooking must have improved on the Dutch recipe … The final result should be soft but firm, spicy and with just a hint of curry: this is not a curry dish. I feel cardamom is a necessary ingredient. Some people add almonds, sometimes I stick crushed lemon leaves in the dish before it goes into the oven. You could also stick in whole almonds. Bay leaves are used in the same way, but bay leaves just don't do it for me! EDITED after reviews: Thank you Happy Bunny and French Tart: I always add raisins or sultanas, and often stud the top with almonds. Don't know why I left it out here!! <blush> I've added it to the recipe, but it can also be left out. POSTSCRIPT: I had inadvertently posted two recipes for bobotie over the years; I was unaware of it!! I have chosen this one to stay and the other one went to that great recipe heaven in the sky. The other recipe had chutney in it -- about 2 tablespoons. You can add chutney to this one as well, especially if you cannot get all the spices. (This is what happens when a trad. recipe has many slight variations! <blush>!) Maybe I should add here that, making this a few days ago with roasted leftover leg of lamb, I had only 1 lb of meat yet I used the spice amounts as given below, and felt afterwards it could have done with more curry. Also: it tastes even better the next day!!”
1hr 35mins

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 12 lbs ground beef (750 g minced meat) or 1 12 lbs lamb (750 g minced meat)
  • oil (for frying)
  • 2 slices white bread, normal thickness
  • 12 cup milk (125 ml)
  • 1 large onions or 2 smaller onions
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder, very mild (Cape Malay is the best)
  • 1 tablespoon breyani spices, generous, crushed* (see note below)
  • 12 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tomatoes, ripe, peeled and chopped
  • 12 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 apple, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 14-12 cup seedless raisin (this is for you to decide)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 egg
  • 34 cup milk (200 ml)
  • 12 -16 almonds, whole, blanched (or use split almonds)
  • Extra
  • 1 egg, plus
  • 12 cup milk, and
  • 13 teaspoon turmeric


  1. *It might not be easy to find the breyani mix of spices we can get here. But it is only a mix of some or all of the following spices, which you could mix yourself and crush or process coarsely: fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, pimento berries, cardamom, black pepper, star anise, bay leaves and cassia or cinnamon sticks.
  2. Set oven at 350 deg F/180 deg Celsius For fan/convection ovens the heat can be 10 deg. lower.
  3. In a small bowl, tear up the slices of bread roughly, and pour over the ½ cup milk. Set aside.
  4. Peel and chop the onion. Heat about 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot. Fry the onion over medium heat until translucent.
  5. Add the curry powder, coarsely crushed breyani spices and turmeric. Stir, and let the spices fry for a few minutes. Add more oil if they stick: usually quite a bit of oil is needed.
  6. Add the chopped, peeled tomato, sugar, grated apple and lemon rind and stir through. Fry for a minute, then add the meat.
  7. Break up the meat so that the ground meat is loose. Add the salt. Stir often, and mix through with the spice mixture.
  8. Add the apricot jam, and stir so it melts into the meat mixture.
  9. When the meat is sort of medium done, remove the pot from the heat. Stir through and let cool a little.
  10. Take the bread which has been soaking in the milk, and break it up into wet crumbs. The bread will have absorbed all the milk. Add the milky crumbs to the meat mixture, and mix through.
  11. Break the egg in a bowl, whisk, and add the milk.
  12. Add this milk-egg mixture to the meat as well.
  13. Turn into a greased oven dish, and stud with almonds on top. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
  14. Whisk the last egg with the milk and enough turmeric to turn the mixture a nice yellow colour. Take the meat out of the oven, pour over the custard, and bake about 15 minutes longer, or until the egg custard has set.
  15. Serve with Yellow Rice (Begrafnisrys), a green vegetable such as broccoli, and a salad.
  16. After tasting the bobotie, feel free to play around with the spices next time!

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