The South African dish is not dissimilar to moussaka.
The South African dish is not dissimilar to moussaka.
Photo by Jon Mountjoy

Dish of the Week: Bobotie

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're covering a traditional South African food: bobotie.

Bobotie is a baked dish consisting of minced, slightly sweet curried meat (often beef or lamb) topped with egg custard. The dish is thought to have its roots in the Indonesian dish bobotok, a similar minced meat and custard concoction that was likely introduced to South Africa by colonists aboard the Dutch East India Company's spice ships in the 17th century. Those ships also carried Malay slaves, who introduced sweet and sour flavor combinations, as well as their knowledge of curries, chutneys, and spices.

While originally very complex, the use of curry powder makes the recipe much simpler. Dried fruit like apricots and raisins are often incorporated, adding a slight sweetness to the dish.

This recipe, from Saveur, uses a mix of tamarind paste, curry powder, sliced almonds and golden raisins to add complex flavor to the minced lamb. The dish is baked until the custard is beautifully golden brown.


Ingredients serves 8 2 oz Thai tamarind paste (look in Asian specialty stores/section or try this substitute) http://www.nigella.com/kitchen-queries/view/Tamarind-Paste-Substitute/2844 2 slices square white sandwich bread 1/2 cup milk 2 tbsp canola oil 2 lb ground lamb shoulder 2 tbsp unsalted butter 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 tbsp curry powder 1 tbsp sugar 1/4 cup sliced almonds 3 tbsp golden raisins 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tsp lemon zest 2 eggs Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Break tamarind paste into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Cover with 1/2 cup boiling water, and let sit until soft, about 30 minutes. Massage and stir paste and water together with your fingers until paste dissolves; pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, and set tamarind juice aside. Meanwhile, tear bread into small pieces and place in a small bowl; cover with 1/4 cup milk and let sit until bread soaks up milk; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; add lamb, and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned all over and all moisture evaporates, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Return skillet to heat along with butter, and add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder and sugar, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes; transfer to bowl with lamb along with reserved tamarind juice, soaked bread, 3 tbsp almonds, raisins, lemon juice and zest, and 1 egg. Season with salt and pepper, and mix until evenly combined. Transfer to a 9″ deep-dish pie plate, and spread evenly over the bottom.

Heat oven to 375°.

Whisk together remaining milk and egg in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and pour over meat mixture in dish. Bake until custard is set on top, golden brown, and meat mixture is heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining almonds; let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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