Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What's a Bobotie?

Bobotie (ba-BOO-tee) is a traditional South African meatloaf. It starts with a symphony of toasted, freshly-ground curry spices. Milk-soaked whole wheat breadcrumbs soak up the flavors in a custard base. The final dish is studded with raisins and almonds.

The recipe came from a love-at-first-sight library book entitled Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant. It is a hefty 730-page tome with eighteen chapters highlighting specialties from Sub-Saharan Africa to the Southern United States.

This Bobotie recipe was originally vegetarian, calling for tofu instead of [grass-fed organic] beef. It also employs two to three times the volume of spices I'm used to seeing in traditional Indian and Thai curries. I was a bit hesitant, but it works well. This dish is flavorful, complex and satisfying. It's also a great way to use up leftover bread, which we often have.

The curry spices:
1 Tbs cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tbs coriander seeds, toasted and ground
5 cloves, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, toasted and ground (I used Szechuan)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp turmeric

2 large yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs organic lard, butter or olive oil
1 lb ground beef

2 Tbs brown rice vinegar or white vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup peach, apricot or mango chutney (I had none of the above, so I used Trader Joe's pineapple salsa)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs or chunks, toasted
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Blend the curry spices and set them aside.
In a large frying pan, sauce pan or chef's pan, saute the chopped onions and garlic in the oil over medium-low heat until soft - about 20 minutes. Add the beef and curry spices and cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is browned. Remove from heat and add vinegar, soy sauce and chutney or salsa. In a separate bowl, soak bread crumbs in milk. Moosh them with your fingers (or a food processor, but not both at the same time) to help them disintegrate. Mix in the sesame oil and mix well. Lastly, add the onion-beef-curry mixture, raisins and almonds.
Spread the bobotie in a large pie dish, or cute miniature ones if you have extra. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk and pour it over the top of the bobotie. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes or until the custard is set. Serve over brown rice and enjoy!


Christine said...

that looks good... I may cook it for 20 people next week :)

did the original recipe call for the tofu to be marinated?

Deborah said...

Wow - sounds great. Making me hungry already. The spices on this one are really out of this world. As for the original recipe, I don't think the tofu was marinated. It seems to me that whenever they used tofu in the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, they'd freeze it and crumble or grate it straight from the freezer. I read somewhere that freezing tofu makes it chewier but I've never tried it. I'm sure this recipe would be perfectly tasty without freezing or marinating, since the spices are so strong.

Sally said...

excellent recipe! I liked the original Moosewood one, but also preferred using meat in place of tofu- i am travelling atm and dont have my cookbooks- was so glad to see this recipe online!

Deborah said...

Glad I could help! I love seeing favorite recipes online when I can't get to my cookbooks. I think I might tone down the spices next time I make it with beef.