Legendary Dishes | Bobotie (baked spiced meatloaf with custard top)

A slice of bobotie with geelrys (yellow rice)

SOUTH AFRICA

Some years ago a battle over the authenticity, fidelity and ownership of bobotie, a type of meatloaf with a custard crust, shone a bright light on Cape Malay traditional cuisine.

Salwaa Smith, author of Cape Malay Cooking and Other Delights, produced her version of the recipe. ‘I did lots of research into authentic Cape Malay recipes and all the articles I came across was of the notion that bobotie is a Cape Malay dish which came with slaves who arrived from Java and various Indonesian islands in 1658. Being slaves, the Malays often ended up in the Dutch kitchens and their influence remains apparent in dishes such as bobotie.’

The meat mixture for bobotie

Salwaa Smith featured the battle in her web magazine. It includes links to the ‘rainbow’ versions of bobotie and the use of particular ingredients, of which the spices are constant, if not the quanity. The amount is personal and curry powder can replace the individual spices, between 15 grams and 25 grams plus one teaspoon of turmeric per per 500 grams of meat. Garlic is generally a background flavour, between one and two cloves for the same amount of meat.

Our version is an adaptation of Salwaa Smith’s recipe.

This is a Cape Town version by Sonia Cabano.

Meatloaf

  • 500 g beef / lamb (or 50:50 combination), minced
  • 300 g onions, chopped
  • 150 g stale bread soaked in 300 ml water + juice of 1 lemon (lemon is optional)
  • 125 g sultanas (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 10 g fresh galangal pounded into a paste with 30 ml water (optional)
  • 10 g tamarind concentrate loosened in 30 ml hot water
  • 30 ml oil
  • 3 tsp white peppercorns, ground
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed (optional)
  • 2 tsp cloves, ground
  • 2 tsp coriander, ground
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 6 bay leaves / lemon leaves / lime leaves

Topping

  • 250 ml full-fat milk
  • 3 eggs

Sauté onions in oil in a frying pan until they soften and start to colour at the edges, about 15 minutes.

Reduce heat and stir garlic, galangal paste, ground spices, salt, turmeric, and 2 of the leaves into the onions, cook for a few minutes.

Deglaze pan with a tablespoon of water. This will form a paste.

Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Combine the meat with the onion mixture, lemon or tamarind juice, egg and sugar plus, if using, the sultanas.

Press the liquid from the bread, thoroughly blend into the meat mixture.

Chilli in a refrigerator for at least two hours, preferably four hours.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Grease an ovenproof dish about 6 centimetres deep.

Press the meat mixture into the dish, smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven, puncture the surface with a fork in several places and leave to cool a little.

Whisk the eggs into the milk, pour over the baked meat. Push 4 leaves into the egg-milk mixture.

Return dish to the oven, bake until the custard has cooked and formed a golden brown crust, about 20 minutes.