Saturday, July 03, 2010

World Cup Buffet: Bobotie (RSA - Republic of South Africa)

Over the next week I will be posting about recipes and foodstuffs from each of the semifinalist countries in 2010's South Africa World Cup, and - of course - the host country. We start in the host country of South Africa, which got eliminated in the first round. South Africa's cuisine is an eclectic mix of Dutch/Afrikaaner, English, Indian, Malay and of course the various indigenous South African cultures that make up about 90% of the population.

Since I don't have enough money or time to make all of these dishes, the best I can do is write about some of my experiences with them, and make others. With South Africa, we need look no further than that most famous South African "meatloaf" - bobotie.

Country: South Africa (IOC/FIFA Abbreviation: RSA)
Nickname of National team: Bafana Bafana (Zulu, "The Boys")
Number of World Cups they have appeared in: 3
Highest finish: eliminated in the first round
Common foods: beef, lamb, curry, dried sausages, mealie (maize meal), ostrich, seafood on the coasts; sadly, indigenous foods have declined over the last century.
Number of South African restaurants in the Baltimore area: 0
Number of South African restaurants in the Washington area: 0, though there is one in Charlottesville (Shebeen) and one way up in New York City (Braai)

Bobotie is best described as a curried meatloaf with an egg/custard topping baked on top. It likely has Malay origins but has easily been adopted by the population at large. From what I understand, every self-respecting South African housewife has her own tried and true bobotie family recipe. My friend Alan is a South African expatriate, and his mother also has a recipe. I didn't ask for it in time to write this post, but Alan & his mother might be amused to find out that I have tried to make bobotie before. And wouldn't you know, it didn't turn out too well for me.

There are many recipes for bobotie online. The one I used when I made it was one such online recipe. Another easy to follow one is on the website. Or you can use a South African cookbook. A typical recipe for bobotie includes the following, based on ingredients from a popular South African cookbook. (UPDATE - The book in question: Magdaleen Van Wyk's A Taste of South Africa, which is that rare cookbook that has a photo of just about every recipe from the book).

2 lbs minced meat (beef, lamb - make sure it's lean. Alan tells me the beef here is so much fattier than he ever saw growing up in South Africa. So find as low fat and as corn-free a ground beef as possible)
milk & slice white bread (to soak in the milk)
finely chopped onion
raisins and almonds
chutney and apricot jam
curry powder, turmeric and various chopped herbs
eggs (for binding and for the custard on top)
bay leaves

After soaking the bread in the milk (some recipes say to squeeze out the milk, others are very specific that you don't), mix it and all the other ingredients together except for the oil, one or two of the eggs (depending on the recipe), half a cup of the milk and the bay leaves. Bake at about 350° F (180° C) for 40 to 50 minutes, then mix the remaining ingredients well and pour on top, baking for an additional 10 minutes.

The recipe I used was not any of the ones from above. I probably should have used a shallower pan instead of my favorite loaf pan, because my bobotie came out too soft and wet, with more of a scrambled egg topping than a custard one. Again, I will need to try this out again. Maybe I'll ask Alan if he'd be willing to let me use his mother's recipe perhaps?