Bobotie is one of those iconic dishes that is so commonly made in its place of origin that there are as many different versions as there are homes–the land of origin in this case being South Africa, specifically Cape Malay. So although I have featured Bobotie before, I was perfectly happy to try a different take on the delicious casserole.
I found this version in Clifford A. Wright’s Bake Until Bubbly: The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook. The main differences between it and my previous version are less eggs, a different fruit preserve (he calls for apricot, last time I used mango, this time I used peach jam, jam or preserves are both fine), and a homemade spice blend instead of curry powder. It is this last which really attracted me to trying it, and it definitely made a difference. I love curry powder but it is a distinct flavor that erases all of the nuances between different households’ masalas (spice blends). And if you are wondering atr my use of the word masala for a South African dish, this casserole definitely has its roots in Indian cuisine, having come with the Dutch from Malaysia and Indonesia, where that version was called bobotek, and was popular with the slaves there, which included Indians.
I actually doubled this casserole (recipe as written below is for one casserole) and sent one in for the teachers at Alex’s and Sammy’s school for Parent Teacher Conferences. I know someone told my husband that they really enjoyed it–truthfully I have no idea how its more exotic appearance went over with the majority. I do believe as long as they gave it a chance they would enjoy it. It’s blending of savory, spicy and sweet is a combination that in my experience most people have a taste for. I, for one, love it.
My main changes were in my use of peach preserves, as discussed above, and I also used half ground turkey. I used half ground turkey (totally untraditional) because I get my beef from local producers, and as a result it usually just comes in one fat content, probably around 15-20%, and this is not a dish that needs a super fatty meat (although nor should it be completely lean, you don’t want it to dry out while cooking), so I cut the fat by using half ground turkey but it retains the more intense beef flavor.
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 1 T unsalted butter
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 1 T minced garlic
- ½ t ground cardamom
- 1 t paprika
- 1 t ground cumin
- 1 t turmeric
- 1 t salt
- ½ t freshly ground black pepper
- ½ t ground ginger
- ½ t ground coriander
- ½ t ground cinnamon (I used cassia, use whichever kind sounds best to you)
- ¼ t ground cloves
- 1 T red wine vinegar
- 2 slices of soft sandwich bread (I used an oatmeal bread)
- 1¼ cups whole milk, divided
- 1 lbs ground beef
- 1 lbs ground turkey
- ½ cup chopped almonds, divided
- ¼ cup raisins
- 4 T peach preserves/jam, divided
- 3 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Add the garlic and then continue to cook, stirring, until the onions are starting to turn golden, another 2-4 minutes.
- Add the spices, including the salt, and mix in. Then add the vinegar and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has cooked off, about 2-3 minutes.
- Rip the bread into pieces and place in a bowl. Pour ¼ cup of milk over the bread and toss around to encourage the bread to absorb the milk.
- Add the bread and the ground beef and turkey to the pan. Stir to break up the ground meats--the bread will become absorbed into the dish. Cook until the turkey and beef are browned, about 10-12 minutes.
- Set aside 2 tablespoons of the chopped almonds. Add the rest of the almonds to the pan, along with the raisins and 2 tablespoons of the peach preserves. Mix in.
- Turn off the heat. Mix in 1 of the eggs.
- Scrape the meat mixture into a casserole dish (9X13 or its equivalent). Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of peach preserves on top of the meat mixture.
- Whisk together the remaining 2 eggs with the remaining 1 cup of milk. Pour this mixture over the casserole. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped almonds over the top.
- Bake at 325 F for 20 minutes, and then increase the heat to 375 F and bake until the eggs are set and a thin knife inserted into the center of the casserole comes out mostly clean, about another 15-25 minutes.
- Let set for 5 minutes and then serve.